Surf's up, Dave Doeren. In a relegation world, the MAC Championship would be an invitation to the Big Ten for, like, a year. (Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE)
My lovable colleagues, who know more about college football than I do, are going gungho about a proposed relegation system in college football, not unlike soccer in England, where each conference is part of a "tier" and top teams move up while the last place team gets demoted to the lesser conference. This is not a new concept — I've seen it written about elsewhere — but every general concept puts the MAC below the Big Ten because, well, the MAC is below the Big Ten.
They even simulated the season dating back to 2005, pre-Temple, until this season, and in their super-hypothetical world the MAC would look like this:
Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Indiana, Miami (Ohio), Minnesota, North Dakota State, Northern Iowa, Ohio, Southern Illinois, Western Michigan
Northern Illinois and Toledo are in the Tier 1 Big Ten, Kent State is in the Tier 3 Missouri Valley, while Akron and EMU fell to the Tier 4 Ohio Valley. Only BGSU, Buffalo, OHIO and Western Michigan never wavered from the division.
This whole thing is just ... this is weird. I can see how it's neat from their perspective; people like watching the best football and this ensures the worst team doesn't get a chance to contend for a championship again.
Look, I get that the MAC is a feeder league for head coaches and administrators. But entire schools? That's a little creepy. And the Big Ten routinely beats up on them to pad their record and dole out some charity money to smaller schools.
Yes, I enjoy watching Mid-American Conference sports because of the schools involved. And I suppose it's a stroke of luck that BGSU is never the best nor worst football team in the conference (as of late), so I guess they'll be there forever (because who else are they going to incessantly switch between divisions?), keeping my general interest. But ... new teams creates new rivalries, and it'd be extremely weird to not see a BGSU-Toledo or Akron-Kent State.
Think of the 12 MAC teams like a social clique in high school. We love being part of friend circles because there's something innately beautiful about being a crucial cornerstone of a small group. But after graduation, slowly friends start to get out of touch and they rarely, if ever, receive the chance to reunite as a whole unit. Relegation would be the post-graduation malaise, mingling and meeting new people (teams), falling in love with new mascots and rivalries, and never quite getting back to the point where the 12 MAC teams are in the same conference at the same time. It'd be a pity, but we'd survive.
And maybe this is the wave of the sports future. I distinctly recall a former colleague at another website, a British expat, who always told me it was strange that capitalist America was inherently socialist in their pro sports: not only do all teams remain in the "top" league, but the worst teams get the best young players. Hard to argue with that. After all, they seem to have a good thing going with roundabouts; we just need to get used to them.
Here's what it would change: my relentless rooting for the MAC as a league. When whole teams are being lopped off, receiving the Big Ten's leftovers and the Missouri Valley's spoils, the median of the league becomes structurally normalized — a truck stop for a fledgling program en route to be the best, and more than likely a temporary purgatory for a struggling Big Ten team. The conference would lose its identity. All of them would. And I'd venture that 25 percent of rooting for a team also involves the general wish of wellbeing for the rest of the conference's cohorts against foreign competition.
Relegation is stupid because it'd crush and distort my small tiny world. It'd probably work for everyone else, though. Alas.
Although I must admit, but ONLY in footnote form: SBN's relegation series this week has been incredibly fascinating. Read it.