Why 2011-12 is the Year of the Bronco

Western Michigan athletics are a rarity in mid-major college sports. The MAC is a league in which coaches come and go like the tides of Lake Michigan — perform well, and numerous (sometimes not so) "major" programs will be knocking on your door, while a couple of consecutive poor seasons is enough to send a coach scrambling for an FCS job.

WMU, however, enjoys stability — sometimes to a fault, but stay with me. Bill Cubit is entering his seventh year at the helm of the football program, which he wasted no time in turning around, but despite a 29-18 MAC record, the Broncos have yet to win a MAC title under Cubit's watch.

Similarly, head basketball coach Steve Hawkins just finished Year 8 in Kalamazoo, and has compiled an impressive 83-49 MAC mark along with five MAC West titles. Losing in the conference tournament semis is becoming an annual tradition for WMU, however, and Hawk's inability to beat Akron has haunted the Broncos in numerous important situations. The basketball team has also failed to win the elusive NCAA auto-bid since 2003-04, Hawkins' first season at WMU.

Even in hockey (a non-MAC sport, but WMU's second or third most popular), widely-criticized coach Jim Culhane enjoyed 10 years on the job despite mediocre results (to be kind).

Simply put, WMU sports seem to be always the bridesmaid and never the bride — moreso than any other MAC program, the Broncos are always near the top of the league in football and basketball, but there are a noticeable lack of rings on fingers. Even though our results are consistently better than those of, say, Ball State, some of us find ourselves pining away for just one season like the Cardinals enjoyed in 2008 (although hopefully we wouldn't choke away the title at the end).

So why is this year "the year"? Sure, Bronco fans have been known to take a page out of the Cubs' fan guide (there's always next year!), but I prefer to think we're just unlucky-- we're consistently putting together good recruiting classes, but we just can't put that one team together. Until now, that is.

Finally, we have a football team without that one glaring weakness, namely a swiss cheese pass defense, holding us back. Our 11-5 basketball team returns almost everything, and this year will boast senior leadership to boot. Our hockey team is coming off of their best season in 15 years, and only looks to get better. Championships are not out of reach in any of the three major sports. Elementary school kids in Kalamazoo have visions of a BCS bowl dancing in their heads. Flenard Whitfield is channeling his inner Shelvin Mack. The Lawson Lunatics are already asking "why haven't we scored yet?".

Better luck next year, MAC friends.

This post was submitted by one of our esteemed readers and does not necessarily reflect the opinions or thoughts of Hustle Belt or SB Nation.

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