In case you haven’t followed along with the Great Big Group of Five Conference Realignment Auction, here’s an explainer of the process and a midway update for you to peruse.
It’s finally time.
After three weeks of auctions and trades, your friends here at the Belt and across our SB Nation sister Group of Five blogs Underdog Dynasty and Mountain West Connection have completed the grand experiment. The conferences... have been realigned.
As the originator of the experiment, we’re going to reveal out conference and how it looks first.
Without further ado: The reimagined Mid-American Conference!
The Mid-American Conference
- Ball State
- Eastern Kentucky
- Northern Iowa
- Northernmost school: Central Michigan University (Mt. Pleasant, Michigan)
- Southernmost school: Liberty University (Lynchburg, Virginia)
- Easternmost school: University of Connecticut (Stoors, Connecticut)
- Westernmost school: Northern Iowa University (Cedar Falls, Iowa)
- Where is your football championship venue? Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan
- Where is your basketball championship venue? Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio
- Where is your baseball championship venue? Boomer Stadium in Schaumberg, Illinois
Which was the MAC team that you selected as a seed to start the project and why?
I chose Central Michigan.
It was the most biased pick I could possibly make, and honestly, probably a wasted one, but hear me out. CMU has some fairly good programs in a variety of sports, including football, women’s basketball, women’s socer, gymnastics and wrestling. That was my intention when going through this auction: find well-rounded schools or schools which have great potential. CMU is the former with a pinch of the latter, in my opinion.
It also firmly set my territory, forcing other commissioners away from potentially grabbing any Michigan-based squads. Buffalo was probably a better choice, but as I’ll explain in a second, things didn’t quite go to plan.
What was your game plan coming into this auction? Did you have a strategy or pre-planned budget for teams you sought to go after?
My plan was to be aggressive in concentrating the MAC in a certain geographic footprint while bringing back some prgrams which could really upgrade the conference’s caliber. I was willing to sacrifice outlier schools in exchange for upgrading prestige, but only to a certian extent. If I had any auction pawn go over $45, I pulled out, as I was attempting to gain a 16-team squad and had no idea how the rest of the auction would play out, what with two other conferences potentially attempting to poach programs.
Regardless of all that, I was hoping to expand a little further east, south and west in an effort to create true directional divisions.
Did you have any teams that you wanted to go after in particular which may have been an out of the box option coming in? Why or why not? Did your plan work?
I went aggressively after two teams in the early running: Marshall and Cincinnatti. Both times, I was foiled by Conference USA, as Tanner chose Marshall as a seed school and ultimately won Cincy in a bidding war.
Both schools were former MAC members with a good amount of prestige which I thought could 1) renew some fierce rivalries and 2) inject some new life into the conference outlook as a whole. It alo helped expand the conference eastward, which always helps. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Changing course, I went hard after James Madison, an FCS school which many of the other commisioners wanted, hoping to bring in Liberty as a rival and win Western Kentucky in an auction so I could expand the conference into the south and open up some major pipelines. Alas, I only walked away with Liberty, who I tried to use as a trade piece to no avail, and EKU, which will end up an outlier school due to being unable to obtain rival WKU.
The decision to bring in UMass and UConn into the conference was to try and replace losing Buffalo early in the bidding process. I was honestly surprised to face little resistance for either school, as I picked them both up for $10 apiece. Getting Buffalo back in exchange for James Madison in the post-auction trading period ended up actually boosted the value of those bargin bin purchases.
What are some key rivalries (created or intact) that you have in your conference? Do you have any rivalries that you missed out on?
Here’s just a few of the existing rivalries I managed to keep in-tact:
- The Michigan MAC Trophy: Central/Eastern/Western Michigan
- The Battle for the Victory Cannon: Central Michigan vs. Western Michigan
- The Battle of the Bricks: Ohio vs. Miami
- The Battle of I-75: Toledo vs. BGSU
- The Bronze Stalk: NIU vs. Ball State
Here are the rivalries I’ve created:
- The Battle of the Northerns: Northern Illinois vs. Northern Iowa
- The UGame (previously dormant): UMass vs. UConn
Finally, the rivalries I ultimately missed out on:
- Battle for the Bell: Marshall vs. Ohio
- The Battle for the Victory Bell: Miami vs. Cincinnati
- Marshall vs. Miami (look it up, it’s fairly intense.)
- The Wagon Wheel: Akron vs. Kent State
- Battle of the Bluegrass: Western Kentucky vs. Eastern Kentucky
- James Madison vs. Liberty (It’s pretty funny when you read it that way, isn’t it?)
How will the conference work in terms of scheduling?
In football, it’ll involve seven games vs. inter-division foes and one cross-division match. The home/away affiliations switch every season for said games. In order to maintain rivalries which may be affected by certain divisional changes, there will be protected rivalries granted for Miami and Ohio, as well as Liberty and EKU. The football championship will proceed as per usual, with the divison winners facing off for the title in Detroit.
In basketball, it gets difficult. You have to either play 29 or 27 regular season games. Assuming you play all seven inter-divisional opponents and seven of the eight cross-division opponents, that gets you to 28 games played. Some more research may have to be broached on the subject, as it oculd greatly affect out-of-conference matchups. The basketball postseason will be a 1-16 framing, with the first and second round games on campus and the semi-final and championship game in Cleveland.
Happy with your conference? What’s the overall takeaway?
I feel like it’s a good mix of geography, rivalry intrigue and prestige of schools. Sure, there are some unorthodox choices, and the scheduling may end up becoming bloated, but the way I see it is this: all I had to do was to try and make a good thing better, and I think I accomplished that.
The overall experience was a lot of fun, and I found myuself in a lot of early battles which forced me to have to reformulate my plan mid-auction. I think, knowing that, I can come away happy with a quality product.