This goes beyond the conference finishing 1-14 in their last 15 bowl games (thank you, Central Michigan). I have the best of intentions when I implore the Mid-American Conference football to get out of the stiff Bowl Subdivision and into a warm, comfy Championship Subdivision.
You might be asking: isn't this sports suicide? Who wants to go backwards? Nobody chooses weaker competition except for the weak themselves. (There's probably a motivational plaque somewhere that says this.)
But perhaps their game is not BCS material, and in this convoluted system, that's the whole point. In 2003, Miami University finished 10th in the AP Poll. That was the last time the top mid-major was Mid-American. Since then, it's been a rocky rotation of Boise State, Utah, BYU, and TCU. At some point in the recent past, the MAC put all their competitive chips into football, but even smart money can eventually come into possession of the house, much like intelligent humans staying home on prom night.
But cancel out the strength of their football out of the equation. Here's why it's not a terrible idea to move down:
1. The Big Ten will still like them. What's a major selling point for playing in the MAC? You may not get to play in a power conference, but once a year you may get to play in Beaver Stadium or The 'Shoe. This year the Big Ten played nine FCS teams in Washington Generals roles and 14 from the MAC. (FYI, the final score: Big Ten 12, MAC 2.) Factor in geographical distance to these schools, and as long as they're in Division I, they'll keep bringing them in to pound on them, because it's what power conferences love doing.
2. The P-Word and the C-Word. It's time to fess up and realize that the MAC is nowhere near catching lightning in a bottle and reaching the BCS. Even the slightly more muscly Conference USA has never been. Consider the commercials for Total cereal. How many bowls of mediocrity is it going to take to get the nutrition and satisfaction of one playoff run? Kent State basketball did it with their run to the Elite Eight in 2002. Miami hockey and Akron soccer made it to their respective title games last season. Playoffs make everything better, and championships are more likely to fall into the hands of the MAC in this manner.
Remember that snowtrodden Montana-Appalachian State game? Now supplant the Chippewas into the wintry mix. It's … it's beautiful.
I'm not slamming the BCS, as easy it is to do that. The system's there for the AQs, and they can back it up with ratings and revenue. But the sooner the MAC realizes they're not really going to benefit from it, the sooner they can start having fun in the FCS playoffs.
(2a. It's a bold and brassy statement. If you are akin to raging against the computer machine, then you'd love this as a symbolic move. "This is bogus. I'm outta here and goin' to a magical place where they do things right." Actually I believe this was also the premise in Joe Dirt.)
3. It's only a demotion if you believe it. Villanova, who won the Division I Football Championship, also beat nine-win Temple in the opening week. Appalachian State almost beat East Carolina, and William & Mary took down Virginia. The gap between subdivisions is nothing more than a picket fence that's not all that hard to vault. Or, rather, it's not that much higher than the terrace wall between the MAC and every other AQ program.
And, honestly, is there any other chance the MAC will improve their standing within FBS? Their recruiting territory practically mimics the Big Ten. There are no FCS teams in Michigan, and just two in Ohio. Their incoming freshmen, in theory, would stay the same, unless there are a truckload of three-star athletes who grew up pining for the International Bowl.
4. Better they relegate themselves before someone else does it. It's not a very well-policed rule, but an NCAA team is supposed to maintain a yearly attendance of 15,000 fans per home game. Five teams fell below that (Ball State, BGSU, EMU, Miami, NIU), and were some way under that. Eastern Michigan drew in just over 5,000 a game.
There has been no indication of the NCAA dusting off this unpoliced ordinance and enforcing it at gunpoint, but why wait and see if those schools get hung out to dry or not? Just have everyone join together and move to a safe yet competitive location: the FCS.Powered by Sidelines