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Falling Down the Summit (League)

Greetings readers,

Earlier today, I saw an article about how the Summit League should disband, written by Bleacher Report. You can read that article here if you are interested. If you are unfamiliar with the Summit League, let me give you a little rundown on the conference.

The Summit League is a NCAA Division I conference which currently houses ten teams, from Michigan to Utah. After this season, Centenary and Southern Utah will be leaving. SUU will join up with the Big Sky Conference in 2012, whereas Centenary is moving down to NCAA Division III (as mentioned in my “The Fighting New Nicknames” article.) The Summit has been around since 1982, but named as the Association of Mid-Continent Universities before switching to the Mid-Continent Conference name in 1989.

Currently, Indiana is home to two Summit League teams (IUPUI and IPFW) whereas other states just have one member. Western Illinois University has called the Summit League home the longest, since 1982. The newest members are IPFW, North Dakota State, and South Dakota State. South Dakota will join the league in Fall 2011, making the state of South Dakota have two league members as well as Indiana. With Southern Utah gone in 2012, the league will have all schools in the Midwest. This will help out some schools on the travel budget, as Utah is quite a bit away from the other schools.

As a whole, the conference has seen nineteen other teams join and leave the league. The biggest movement of teams to leave the conference at once happened in 1994, when Wright State, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Northern Illinois, Cleveland State, and UIC all moved to the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now called the Horizon League, since 2001.) As a response, the Mid-Con absorbed teams from the East Coast Conference, like Central Connecticut State, Chicago State, Troy State (now known as Troy), Northeastern Illinois, and Buffalo. All of those teams have moved on, with Northeastern Illinois folding athletics altogether in 1998.

Two more teams would leave the Mid-Con for the Horizon League. Youngstown State joined in 2001, followed by Valparaiso in 2007. Before YSU joined the Horizon League, Northern Illinois left  in 1997.

According to the article from Bleacher Report, the summit League should disband because on how low their RPI is in Men’s Basketball. Currently, Oakland is on top of the Summit League with a RPI ranking of 74th out of 345 teams. The next Summit League team is IUPUI at 111. Centenary is near the bottom of the RPI list at 343rd. As a whole, the Summit League ranks 23rd out of 31 conferences and independents. (this is from 2/1/11)

The article does have a good point on the RPI, but does that mean they have to fold completely? If that conference folds, you have eight teams looking for a new conference home. The writer recommends IPFW, IUPUI, and Oakland to check out the Horizon League, but the league is looking for stability. While there are demands from the loyal fans of the HL teams to dump YSU because the majority of the teams don’t compete well enough (Women’s Track usually does exceptionally well), I don’t think the league is looking to dump or add anyone. Sure, it would be a fit geographically, but that doesn’t always make a successful equation.

For the western Summit teams, the writer recommends the Missouri Valley Conference. If that were to happen, that’s sixteen teams. That is very tough to manage, although it seems like the Big East can do it. Keep in mind though, not all teams in the Big East play everything, like football and baseball. Also, keep in mind that’s a different situation as well.

I wish I could spend time of other college sports, since it’s not just basketball. The article and my post just look at that since it’s the sport most fans are watching. Remember, this is where most Horizon League schools got their start in Division I, like Wright State and Cleveland State. Folding teams will not solve anything, since we are in an era of teams leaving for more another conference. I don’t think looking at one number will be a deciding fact on folding a conference. You also have your monetary I will say this, the teams that entered in the 1990’s are still there, which could be a good sign for their long stay in the league.

I guess my point is that folding is not always the answer. Recruiting, scheduling tougher, and playing great will have its rewards.

Sources from Bleacher Report and Real Time RPI (2/1/11). Image from WikiMedia.

Until next time,

-Lee

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