Welcome to another week of Rounding the Belt, your MAC round table of all the news, happenings and MACtion this past week. Joining us, as always, are three highly esteemed MAC writers from Hustle Belt. This week's panelists are David Drury, Kaleb Carter and Adam Skeffington. Without further ado, let's get right into it:
The Ed O'Bannon trial is heating up. Is this the final nail in the student-athlete coffin or will the NCAA prevail?
David: Somehow I think the NCAA will prevail, but it won't be the end of the student-athlete. I'm not against paying student athletes for their likeness or even for their time in college. In fact, I'm all for it. Should they be getting more than just scholarships and food? Absolutely. With all the time put into practicing, watching film, working out, etc it is nearly impossible to have a job to make money for clothes or rent. I don't have a perfect solution, but I would say a small stipend would work best - something like $500 a month, just so they have enough to get by at least. Because they can't hold down a regular job like most students and since, as the NCAA commercials say, 99% of student-athletes will be going pro in something other than sports, they need some sort of compensation to get by.
Kaleb: I think that though there is sentiment increasingly against the NCAA and for student athletes, that the NCAA is still more powerfully represented and will win this round. It is increasingly frustrating to see people say that the only compensation needed for student-athletes is their scholarship when they're asked to make their sport THE number one priority in their lives. It doesn't allow for activities outside of the sport, and because of that, I agree with Dave that a stipend is the best idea. I'm also not opposed to that money going into a fund for after they graduate as long as they are told EXACTLY how much they will be receiving, no ifs, ands, or buts.
Adam: I agree with Kaleb and David and I think the NCAA should give the student athletes a monthly stipend so they can focus their attention on school and their sport rather than resorting to other means. But to play devils advocate, I think the NCAA is losing their hold on the college game with being caught selling player jerseys online and being inconsistent when it comes to banning teams that broke the rules. The coaches are seen as guardians to the players' parents and they'll need to provide a second home for their players. Do I think this case is the final nail in the coffin? No. Is it a step in the right direction? Yes. The NCAA has become the villain to college sports and if an athlete needs to eat or a place to sleep, they should be able to get assistance from the school that recruited them. In a couple years the NCAA will lose their power, but it won't be today. It's just another nail to their enormous coffin.
There has been recent talk of conferences abandoning divisions. Would you be for a division-less MAC?
David: I don't think the MAC should get rid of the divisions. If you have just 13 teams in one division, the odds for a tie at the top are too great, and if there is still a conference championship, it will cause way more controversy. For example, last season the Northern Illinois Huskies were 8-0, and the Toledo Rockets and Bowling Green Falcons were both 7-1. If there was one large division, based on head-to-head wins, Toledo would have been in the MAC Championship Game. But if Toledo and Bowling Green didn't play each other, who decides? What happens if there is a three, or four way tie at 7-1 some year? Someone is getting left out. At least with divisions you can break it down even more. Geographically it makes sense, the leagues have been pretty competitive, and there's really no need to mix things up right now.
Kaleb: I say BE GONE DIVISIONS, WE HARDLY KNEW YE. I still like the conference championship to be played, and surely the conference can come up with a fair formula to decide tiebreakers. Some won't like it, and I, like some others, really wouldn't like it if a 5-3 Buffalo Bulls squad takes on an 8-0 Northern Illinois Huskies team in the championship if the Ball State Cardinals are 7-1 in the West. That be the bigger outrage to me than a team tied in terms of record with another and being left off. I don't geography factoring in to who plays in a conference championship anyway. But much of my argument comes from personal opinion anyway, so there's that.
Adam: Oh divisions, the most frustrating thing in the MAC. An 8-0 team wastes a game against a 5-3 team. How annoying. The 8-0 team comes in overly confident and the 5-3 team upsets them is just a black eye to the conference. The conference championship should be the best two teams in the conference - period. If a team dominates their conference schedule and goes unbeaten, why shouldn't they play the team that's right behind them? I say drop divisions! Let the top dogs play each other in the championship and display what the conference is really about.
Are there going to be any Big Ten teams asking for refunds come this fall?
David: I think there are going to be a few B1G teams looking for refunds next season. NIU has the potential to upset Northwestern - we'll have to see how good the next Huskie QB is. Ball State could surprise Iowa, although I think that's less likely to happen as Iowa will be on the lookout after losing to NIU last year. Finally Bowling Green and Wisconsin should be a very good game. Not sure if the Falcons can pull it out, but I'm excited to see them try.
Kaleb: I personally don't think the Akron Zips over Penn State is too far-fetched. I won't predict it, but I'll definitely be keeping up to see if Penn State slips up massively early with James Franklin at the reigns. The Western Michigan Broncos over Purdue? Well, expecting Purdue to win isn't really a smart bet anymore. Otherwise NIU could defeat Northwestern, a squad who I have no idea if they are united or disheveled after the union developments. The Bowling Green Falcons taking on Wisconsin has the potential to be interesting. Let me take a stab at that one and say Matt Johnson will lead a high-powered Dino Gabers offense. Much crazier things have happened. Iowa always seems to falter to a non-BCS school (though I suppose they're all non-BCS schools now eh?) early in the season. Doesn't mean they lose, but they make it close, so Ball State-minus #Wenning could pull something crazy off. I doubt it though, Iowa is a program that could finally take the next step to consistent success.
Adam: As for refunds, I don't believe there are any clear winners this year. I think Miami can pull off an outstanding upset over Michigan this year, kind of like the Appalachian State game of years past. Chuck Martin and Andrew Hendrix are from Notre Dame and they'll be motivated to top Michigan after last years loss, plus Michigan hasn't fared so well with Brady Hoke at the helm. Outside of that random pick it seems a bit bleak. The Big Ten has been out on notice about the MAC. If NIU continues to have some luck under center, they could pull off a win at Northwestern, but that might be the closest thing to it. Penn State has too much talent to lose to Akron. James Franklin can motivate players to win games and going from the SEC to the Big Ten will make his life easier. He knows not to overlook a team, since he was the underdog team in the SEC last year. Other than that, Bowling Green vs Wisconsin, as a Huskies fan, I want Wisconsin to run all over them. I'm a bit bitter from last seasons MAC championship and Wisconsin has been too consistent in the past couple years to allow a game like this slip away. Go Badgers!
What's your summer song?
David: The song of the summer, for me, is "Talladega" by Eric Church. Maybe it's because I'll be traveling across the country this summer with my friends (just like in the song) or maybe it's because Eric Church is just amazing. Either way, I'll be listening to that song an awful lot.
Kaleb: Obviously it's Andrew Jackson Jihad's "Kokopelli Face Tattoo." What do you mean you all have never heard of it? *Sigh*
Adam: Song of the summer- Wagon Wheel By Darius Rucker. Yes, I know what you're thinking and I don't care. Can I bum a ride?