1. NIU's win over Toledo has opened up the West where four teams are all within a game of the MAC West divisional lead. Do you think the parity of the West is better for the conference, or races like the East - where the winner was pretty much decided with three weeks to go - are better for the MAC?
Let's Go Rockets: As frustrating as it is, a race like the MAC West is better for the conference. The log jam keeps fans interested and gives everyone hope that their team will do what's necessary to pull ahead. If the divisional race is decided week's earlier, it's less exciting for the fans (and players, we would imagine) to watch their teams compete down the stretch.
Eagle Totem: What's best for the conference depends on the circumstances. If there are one or two teams that make it to late in the season either undefeated or with only one loss, the best thing for the conference is for that team (or those teams) to continue to win, right up until they face each other in Detroit the week after Thanksgiving. That's basically what happened in 2012, when the MAC Championship game pitted the 11-1 Huskies against the 11-1 Golden Flashes. Both teams entered the game nationally ranked and the win was enough to push Northern Illinois into the Orange Bowl. That raises the profile of the conference as a whole.
I know I've made this point before, but what builds a perception of a strong conference is not parity and it's not when the weak teams are better than weak teams from other conferences. Right or wrong, a conference's strength is measured first and foremost by how good the top few teams are. That was the case in the Mountain West as first TCU and then Boise State were tearing it up, that's been the case in the SEC (Kentucky and Vanderbilt, among others, have fielded some pretty terrible teams, but few fans think less of the conference for that) as well.
On the other hand, once there's no real hope of a MAC team achieving a national ranking, then parity (at least a little bit) is more beneficial. It makes for more meaningful games late in the season, and also usually more exciting games.
FalconBlog: While at FalconBlog we are perfectly satisfied with the boring and early decided MAC East race, there's no doubt that the open races are much better for creating suspense and drama and helping to make November more exciting. We support open races in the West at all times!
2. With the return of weeknight games comes the debate over their merits. Does the national TV exposure balance out the barren stands many teams around the MAC see for these evening games in November?
FB: I have been around and around on this one. We had 8K Wednesday night at the Doyt. Wouldn't have been great on a Saturday afternoon but probably better and a little warmer. Now that ESPN is putting some cash on the table, we are locked in. The entire collegiate sports scene has been changed by the pursuit of money--for good or ill. There's no going back.
LGR: This is a complex issue. We love watching our team on national TV so the mid-week games give us that opportunity, but we hate the later-than-usual kickoffs and seeing the stands nearly empty. Mid-week games are difficult to attend for season ticket holders that may have work/family obligations and for students to attend who may have class or work/family obligations as well. The decreased ticket sales are off-set by the revenue from the TV contracts, but shots of the empty stands are broadcast to potential commits across the country and does not fairly represent the game day atmosphere that is present at most regularly scheduled (read: 7pm kickoff, Saturday) Toledo football games. All things being equal and from a pure fan perspective, we like our football games on Saturdays where they belong.
ET: Let me share several thousand words on the subject. Last Tuesday, Bowling Green traveled to Akron for a game that was expected to decide the MAC East champion.
(Head over to @cmadler to see pictures of Akron's game against BG)
Maybe I'm biased, since I tend to go to games in person, but I think schools have gone too far in catering to television audiences, at the risk of alienating their fans who actually buy tickets and show up at games. This is a mistake, pure and simple, and as we've seen at Michigan, it's starting to come back to bite schools in their collective asses. I call it a well-deserved ass-biting.
3. In case you missed it, Deadspin just ripped commissioner Jon Steinbrecher for his handling of questions about the MAC's 13-year deal with ESPN. What are your initial thoughts on this article and the accompanying video with the interview referenced in the story?
ET: My initial thoughts? Steinbrecher deserves every bit of ridicule Deadspin has heaped on him. I was already somewhat dubious of this contract to begin with, but the more we hear about how it came about, the less I like it. In short, I think the MAC could have done better than this. But, you know what? I'm not going to respond to hypotheticals here.
FB: Just having watched that, I wonder what the interviewer is getting at. Is it the mere issue of transparency or is it some specific provision that has him upset? My best guess is that he is upset that schools are producing content for ESPN, which is sort of an angle I hadn't thought of it before. Are any of the schools upset at what the MAC committed to or the length of the contract? His focus on lawyers--as if there might be a legal issue--was also odd.
For what it is worth, I wouldn't have answered the question about the son, either.
LRG: Commissioner Steinbrecher should be able to discuss the details of the deal and provide clarification for the rational behind the decision and how it benefits the conference. As a representative of the conference, he should able to provide complete transparency into the negotiation process and why this deal is in the best interest of the conference and each of the member schools. Full disclosure is the only acceptable way to approach these questions.
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