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The Future of Football in the Mid-American Conference

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It’s never too early to look ahead

mac football helmet

The theme of the last few weeks in the football landscape has been looking forward. Think about it. This weekend we celebrated the NFL Draft, and with it the hopeful optimism of your favorite franchise. Maybe that first round pick will go on to the Hall of Fame. Perhaps they’ll lead your squad to a Super Bowl. The sky is the limit. Dream big.

On the college side, we’ve seen programs hold at worst spring practice but at best an all out Spring Game Fiesta with all the bells and whistles of an October afternoon. The eternal optimist walks away from spring ball with a virtual certainty that this is THE YEAR for their team. The offense looks crisper than ever, the defense stout as possible, and that unknown recruit is ready for meaningful snaps and action. It is truly the best of the sports world. Except for those MACtion Chicken Littles who think they sky is falling because of the spring game performance. Ignore those people. They are the worst.

So it’s with that eye on the future that the Belt looks out half a decade away for what’s in store for our favorite conference. What’s in store for MAC football in the next five years? Glad you asked...

  • The arguments of haves and have nots will reach fever pitch. With the expanding landscape of college sports, the increasing cost to field a competitive program, and the decrease in state support for many of the colleges in America, there is going to be a breaking point that will hit the MAC harder than any other conference. The margin for error is tiny in the Mid-American Conference because of the already negative economics at play with shoestring budgets and an instability of institutional support and subsidies given the landscape of higher education. At some point that system is going to break, and when it does, people are going to start asking questions and pointing fingers. It’s an argument you’ve heard before, but one that will be ever present and growing in intensity over the next five years.
  • There will be THE NEXT BIG THING wearing a MAC headset. PJ Fleck was the most recent, but won’t be the last. At some point over the next five years a fledgling P5 conference will point to their assumed savior at the helm of a MAC program. Maybe they’ll crash the New Years 6. Maybe they’ll go higher. But it will be the tale as old as time where the coach will cash in and move on to bigger and better things. Big Ten? SEC? Big 12? Who knows. But if you’re a fan of a major program that’s fallen into mediocrity, take a MAC chance and wait for the trophies to roll in.
  • A MAC athlete will be in the conversation for the Heisman. That may seem like a pipe dream, but the gap in talent between the big money big name programs and your favorite MAC school has never been smaller. The three dozen players that were drafted or signed to free agent contracts last weekend should give you actual incontrovertible truth that MAC athletes are certainly talented enough to be competitive for the biggest award of the year. Tides and trends are slow to change, but the national conversation is coming around. When the playoff and the NY6 was announced it seemed like an impossibility that anyone from our conference would ever sniff it. That all changed last year when PJ Fleck and the Broncos rowed their boat to the Cotton Bowl. At some point in time, a special athlete will make the MAC relevant again in the awards realm. If not us, who? If not now, when?
  • MAC expansion will occur. This is an unfortunate byproduct predicated solely on the big boys and what’s sure to happen above. The last year or two has seen a much slower expansion landgrab than the years before it, but this powder keg is sure to explode again, sooner rather than later, and likely in the next five years. When that happens, trickle down occurs. And sitting square in the cross hairs of the trickle down effect is the MAC. So in all truth, the MAC expansion may only be recruitment of new members to fill gaps left by others, but my gut tells me that the MAC as you know it now in 2017 will be significantly different in 2022.
  • Buffalo won’t be in the MAC. Call me crazy, but I think Buffalo is not long for the MAC world. Whether they jump to a more prestigious conference or one that just makes more sense for them financially or geographically is anyone’s guess. But before 2022, I think they’re gone.

Five years doesn’t seem like long when you really think about it but it’s enough to completely change something. With the above, the MAC and its football members would be in a much different space. What say, you, Belter? What happens to your program over the next five years?

Poll

Which scenario above is most likely to happen?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Haves vs. Have Nots
    (55 votes)
  • 24%
    Fleck 2.0
    (81 votes)
  • 4%
    MAC Heisman
    (14 votes)
  • 22%
    MAC Expansion
    (73 votes)
  • 31%
    Bye Bye Buffalo
    (103 votes)
326 votes total Vote Now