I’m going from small-town sports know-it-all (yeah right, more like know-it-kinda-sorta) to GLIAC commissioner for a day.
That’s right, from pushing across stories about college sports from my keyboard to pushing buttons that dictate one of Division II’s most powerful, competitive athletic conferences.
Before you chuckle, or put down the paper for that matter, hear me out.
I am a Northern Michigan Wildcat for life, with student debt to prove it, a bunch of my buddies either did attend or still do attend Grand Valley State and I’m trying to making a living covering your beloved Chargers.
Not a bad resumé right?
Kidding aside, I have a better chance of becoming a Detroit Lions practice squad player than I do of being the next commish, but I do have plenty of well-thought postulations the GLIAC should consider.
GLIAC Director of Media Relations Jeff Ligney has said time and again that ideally the league will house 16 teams and have two distinct divisions for as many sports as possible.
Well lucky for him, I have two more schools to add to the roster. All I’m waiting on is a signature from a pair of university presidents, some top-notch presentations, a handful of successful votes and full cooperation of the NCAA. That’s not to much to ask for, is it?
I think not, and that’s why if I were GLIAC Commissioner Dell Robinson for a day I would take the executive authority to offer an open invitation to the University of Saint Francis (Ind.) and Central State University (Ohio).
That would give the conference eight private schools and eight public schools and a fairly straightforward way to divide up the conference.
The South Division could include the following schools: Ashland, Findlay, Hillsdale, Lake Erie, Northwood, Ohio Dominican, St. Francis and Tiffin. And the North would be comprised of the subsequent programs: Central State, Ferris State, Grand Valley State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, Saginaw Valley State and Wayne State.
That would put all of the private schools in one division and all of the public institutions in another.
The only real complaints would likely come from Wayne State and Central State as far as travel costs and time away from the classroom are concerned.
But as the commissioner, here’s my response to them.
The Warriors have the largest enrollment of any GLIAC school and they should be playing the major D-II universities in the state no matter what. If they want to be like Grand Valley they should have to beat them — regularly.
And for Central State, league membership would be an honor, not a right, and to go from NAIA to D-II provisional status to the GLIAC would likely cause an enrollment boost and a chance to go from 0 to 60 in a matter of years.
Plus, they would have non-divisional conference match-ups all over their backyard with four more Ohio schools and programs in Indiana and Pennsylvania.
As far as meeting membership requirements St. Francis is a shoe-in.
Location, athletic excellence and its academic mission statement lines up wonderfully with the GLIAC.
For starters, the two Fort Wayne papers give the school ample coverage in a media market of roughly half-a-million people, and combined with the new coverage in the Columbus and Cleveland markets thanks to Ohio Dominican and Lake Erie, more people would be hearing and reading about the conference than ever before.
But if you’re always reading about a losing program what fun is that.
Luckily St. Francis is one of the premiere NAIA schools in the nation and with their location in Lafayette, close to Purdue University, it seems like they could recruit the kinds of players needed to compete in the GLIAC.
Pragmatists know that football is the king of college sports and that is their bread and butter.
St. Francis has gone 36-4 the past three years, with one loss in the NAIA championship game and two semifinals defeats.
They also are getting progressively better in men’s basketball and baseball and some of their only noticeable weaknesses are in track and field and softball.
Their volleyball teams traditionally finish around .500, but with scholarships available there is no telling what some of these programs could evolve into.
Academically they currently require at least a 21 on the ACT or 1,000 on the SAT, so while they’re no Hillsdale College, they’re no JCC either.
Central State is more of a wild-card selection, which you can give me all the credit you want for.
They are a historically black college of right around 2,200 students and they seem to be able to balance tradition while being progressive at the same time.
No, black colleges are not what the conference seems to be looking for, but who is to say that the addition of such a school wouldn’t expand the league’s fan base and show that diversity is as normal as great sporting contests in the GLIAC.
And the Mighty Marauders just revived their football program in 2005, but it was one of the school’s most beloved traditions for years, and Tiffin, Ohio Dominican and Lake Erie have plenty of work to do, so what’s one more team?
They are also home to a women’s basketball program that has traveled to 12 straight NAIA national tournaments and the track and field teams as well as the cheerleading and dance troupes have also won championships.
They are already in the process of transitioning to Division II and their highly revered marching band, which was actually featured in the 2006 film Dave Chapelle’s Block Party, could infuse a little bit of hot pop culture into the GLIAC.
I’m not saying I have all the answers, I just know what the GLIAC is all about from years of immersing myself in battles for the Miner’s Cup and seeing Grand Valley stockpile President’s Trophies and I think these schools have the right balance to be potential suitors.
Walsh and Malone seem to be decent fits, as Catholic and Christian based liberal arts schools with 3,100 and 2,400 students respectively. But they are still full-time NAIA members and have not yet started the mandatory two years of exploratory D-II status.
Meanwhile Urbana is already in the middle of that process, as a D-II independent, but a 1-10 record in football last season, including losses to most of the aforementioned schools doesn’t bode well.
They have middle-of-the-road programs in most major sports, but I don’t think that’s enough with plenty of D-III and NAIA teams still on their slate.
What I do think is that if I was the commissioner I would’ve never let Gannon and Mercyhurst slip away in the first place. With the two new Ohio schools coming on board, the former league members from Pennsylvania could have made my proposal here completely unnecessary.
But I’m in not in charge, no one cares what I think (unless you’ve surprisingly stayed with me to this point) and I doubt I’ll be getting calls from university presidents any time soon.
All I’m saying is that I have it all figured out, just like the Ron Paul fanatics did during election season.