Monday, September 27, 2010

The Trickle Down Effect Of Conference Realignment

This past summer was partly the summer of conference realignment, though most of the schools making moves were those of the BCS persuasion. While such moves did not necessarily have much of an impact on mid-major basketball, there were some recent changes that could have a trickle down effect on The Summit League. This is all concentrated on the west coast, where the Western Athletic Conference was poached by the Mountain West Conference. Now facing a need to fill out its membership ranks, the WAC will look at a number of schools to potentially invite for future seasons. To illustrate how this could impact The Summit League:

No disrespect meant to Southern Utah by such a scenario, but at this point it is my belief that the benefits the program brings to The Summit League do not outweigh the drawbacks.

  • Tenth member in a time of financial instability with many smaller programs
  • The State of Utah typically supports basketball quite well
  • Not a geographic fit within the conference
  • Travel to and from SUU is long and costly for conference opponents
  • No true travel partner for conference games
Add to this equation the fact that SUU has been losing more games in recent years, and you have a situation that is not mutually beneficial. While the program has found success in this conference in the past, there is no doubt they'd be more successful in a conference where road games were not cross-country trips and home games were against teams people in Utah might actually recognize. If a spot opens up in the Big Sky, there is no certainty that Southern Utah would get the invite, but it sure would make a lot of sense. The Thunderbirds would drastically decrease their travel time and have the ability to develop a natural rivalry with Weber State. It's a win-win.

For those concerned about stability in The Summit League, look no further than the University of North Dakota. It seems inevitable that the school will join the conference, especially considering the fact that the University of South Dakota arrives for the 2011-12 season. The two Dakota State schools have thus far provided the conference with competitive teams and diehard fanbases; there's no reason to think USD and then UND could not provide the same. While UND could experience some growing pains since it is relatively new to Division I, it's likely the program would be able to at least match SUU's level of play in recent years. Truly, everybody wins in this scenario. Now to see how the dominoes fall.

- WAC meeting information from "Pioneers Aim to Impress WAC Officials" on

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