Editor's note: Nice stuff on the thoughts of realignment and the MAC's next theoretical steps. —Sussman
It's contagious and spreading like wildfire. No not the flu, although I am getting sick to my stomach about hearing about it, I'm talking about expansion fever!
Although realignment has been happening for decades (I miss the Southwest Conference), the most recent bout of realignment / expansion has snowballed and rippled from coast to coast. First Colorado and Utah, then Nebraska, soon Texas A&M would follow suit and Syracuse and Pitt would be spooked and flee to the ACC. Without writing a complete summary, lets jump forward to where the ripples have just reached the Mighty MAC with what soon seems to be the loss of our good friends the Temple Owls.
So what should the MAC do? I'll tell you. Nothing! Relax, grab some popcorn, kick up your feet and wait for it to come to you. Thats right, it may fall right on your lap.No doubt we are now back to an odd number 13 football playing members, but hey, we have mastered this scheduling concept of an even number of all-sports members and one wildcard football only member. First UCF, then Temple, and now UMass. No big deal.
Right now there is speculation that the MAC could approach the following teams to expand and increase our MAC footprint, possibly improve basketball, and eventually get back to an even number of all-sports teams: Old Dominion, Delaware, James Madison, Charlotte, Appalachian State, Georgia State, and of course what to do with current football-only UMass.
All of these teams have pros and cons that could benefit the MAC, but hey, we are still the MAC. Sentiment seems to be that these teams aren't exactly beating on the MAC's door or if they are they are knocking to introduce themselves, but with ridiculous demands like:"Help us launch our FBS program, but football only, no basketball for you!"
"I'll think about it, but only if I can bring all my buddies too!"
The MAC is clearly not used to playing the part of having the leverage, but the way I see it, all they have to do is sit back and wait. Then they will hold the leverage and the ability to do whats best for the conference.
If somebody interesting approaches the MAC, than listen, otherwise, just let this play out. Lots will change over the next year or two. For instance, the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) only has 10 football schools and even if they act not interested now, I think they will soon. JMU and ODU are both thought to be talking to the CUSA/MWC Alliance and Georgia State is talking to CUSA/MWC and the Sun-Belt. If a couple of these schools jump, not only will the CAA be weakened and down to 8 or fewer schools, but those regional rivalry "blocks" will be broken up that the UD, JMU, and ODU fans keep talking about. The Alliance doesn't have room for all of them, so whomever is left out in an 8 team CAA will come to us on their own. Additionaly, New Hampshire seems to have had talks of dropping their football program down to the Northeast Conference due to budget concerns.
On the basketball side, St. Louis is rumored to be talking to the Missouri Valley and likely Xavier and Dayton are getting antsy. This changes things for UMass in the A-10. Alternatively, the A-10 fans are talking about approaching Mason and VCU from the CAA. The CAA could get carved up and/or the A-10 too.
Another possibility for the MAC is Appalachian State and Charlotte (again from the A-10). Again, these two schools are probably wanting in the Alliance, but come on, the Alliance doesn't have room for Delaware, ODU, JMU, App State, Charlotte, Georgia State, and UMass. So whomever gets lost in the shuffle with a picked over CAA will come knocking on the MAC's door eventually or get left out in the cold. And if the Alliance isn't interested in any of them, well then the MAC is the only show in town.
The MAC just needs to sit back and wait a year or so and be patient and we have no need NOT to be patient.
There will be no more football-only deals. UMass gets a 2-year pass.