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Nebraska-Omaha to Join Summit, Drop Football

Category: NCAA Conference Expansion & Realignment, NCAA Division Upgrades, Summit League Expansion & Realignment

Discussions between the Summit League and UNO have been going on for some time. The Omaha based school made plenty of sense for the Summit, with nearby UMKC as well as three of the 4 Dakota schools. So the announcement of UNO joining the Summit isn’t a surprise. It’s the steps they are taking to join the Summit that is shocking.

Initially, it appeared that the UNO and Summit discussions would likely mean and FCS football invitation for UNO by the MVFC, the Summit’s “partner” FCS football league of sorts and home to it’s members WIU, SDSU, NDSU and soon to be USD. This past year, South Dakota appeared set to join the Big Sky with North Dakota and Southern Utah but at the last second, was issued an invitation by the MVFC to join as it’s 10th member, a move that also enabled USD to join the Summit League for other sports. The rationale given for the exclusion of North Dakota was that the MVFC only wanted to expand in even numbers. As Southern Utah was in favor of the Big Sky for all sports, it meant that the MVFC would not be able to bring all three schools for an even 12. Instead, only USD for #10.

But as the UNO discussions progressed, it appeared that a door could be opening for North Dakota to join the MVFC after all. UNO would be the 11th member of the MVFC and the conference would then need UND as the 12th member. That door for UND now appears to be closed, whether it was their option or not.

The new developments now mean that for better or for worse, North Dakota will be isolated from any and all regional schools for some time. NDSU, SDSU and USD will be members of the Summit League and MVFC while UND will be joining the Big Sky. UND will for likely decades to come, be sending all of it’s sports programs as far as Portland, OR and Sacramento, CA and south to Flagstaff, AZ, the home of Northern Arizona.

In addition to dropping football, UNO will also be dropping wrestling. That too is shocking as the program just won it’s 3rd straight national championship.

As for North Dakota and the Big Sky, the move by UNO to the Summit and dropping of football means that with no expansion candidates on the horizon and little interest right now by the Big Sky schools to upgrade and join the WAC, that the Big Sky will remain at 11 all-sports members and 13 for football.

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  • I think it’s sad that they did away with their sucessful wrestling program, even though I don’t care about wrestling.

  • Michael in Indy


    I have an idea for a conference realignment scenario in the Midwest that makes so much sense that, of course, it won’t happen.

    The end result would be as follows:

    Summit–Goes to 10 members. Centenary and Southern Utah are already scheduled to leave. S. Dakota and Neb.-Omaha are already scheduled to join. Additionally, IUPUI leaves, and North Dakota joins. Geography is sensible with seven members close to the Great Plains states’ eastern borders. IPFW and Oakland are outliers, but it’s far more manageable than alignment with Centenary and SUU.

    Horizon League–Butler leaves. IUPUI joins. Conference headquarters remain in Indianapolis. Membership count remains at 10.

    Missouri Valley–Membership goes to 12. Butler joins an eastern division with Indiana and Illinois schools. Saint Louis joins a western division with Wichita St., Creighton, Mo. St., UNI, and Drake. 18-game basketball schedule remains. Double-round robin within division. Against the opposite division, two games will be played on the road, two at home, and four games will be double-round robin against the remaining two teams. Travel partners are utilized: Butler/Ind. St., E’ville/SIU, Ill. St./Bradley, SLU/Mo. St., UNI/Drake, and Creighton/Wichita St.

    MVFC–Membership goes to 11 members: Four Dakota schools, UNI, Mo. St., W. Ill., Ill. St., SIU, Ind. St., and Youngstown State. If the MVFC refuses to take North Dakota football, in spite of a scheduling system that worked fine for the 11-member Big Ten for 18 years, North Dakota would become a football-only member of the Big Sky but not for everything else. Thus, the Big Sky’s all-sports membership count would be 10, preventing higher travel costs for Big Sky members and for UND. Either way, the Big Sky, the Summit, and North Dakota would benefit.

    Atlantic 10–Saint Louis leaves. If a financially-strapped school like Fordham does not leave, then the A-10 tries to remain at 14 by inviting a CAA school who shares mutual interest, whomever it may be. (Following the dominoes from there could go on forever.)

    Reasoning for decisions by the parties involved:

    Butler: Although the Horizon League clearly doesn’t keep it from success in the tournament, and it even offers decent competition as evidenced by Butler’s 13-5 league mark, it doesn’t offer an interesting enough home schedule to get casual fans to pay for tickets to go to Hinkle. That will always limit revenue growth, which will always limit Butler’s ability to prevent staff turnover. Travel costs are minimal in the Horizon League; however, it wouldn’t be too huge of a jump with the MVC, whereas the A-10 would be way too much for the non-revenue sports to handle. The MVC’s five Indiana and Illinois schools are within 5 hours of Butler, and only Creighton and Wichita State are farther than 8 hours. The MVC offers more interesting competition for the home crowd. It normally will offer a stronger schedule, which always help come tourney selection time; Butler can’t possibly be naive enough to consider how good it would be if it didn’t HAVE to win the Horizon League tournament to get in the NCAA tournament this year. The MVC also offers exposure on FSN, whose TV contract could be renegotiated with the league if it added a two-time National Finalist.

    Saint Louis: If Butler is in the fold, the A-10’s strength-of-schedule advantage would be minimized enough for it to be a virtual non-factor. Financially, it ought to be a net gain. Travel costs would drop dramatically, while TV revenue with the MVC’s renegotiated contract would be competitive to the A-10’s. I fail to see how recruiting on the east coast would be hurt if the coach himself, Rich Majerus, doesn’t think the in-season travel makes it worthwhile.

    MVC: Expanding with a given season’s hottest mid-major would be too hit-or-miss for this stable conference to take such a risk. Expanding with a truly proven program, especially one that could be an impressive ratings draw in a similar manner to a non-BCS program like Boise football, would bring renewed interest in the conference. Honestly, adding Saint Louis would be as much about getting to even numbers as anything else, but if it makes sense financially, then SLU would be invited.

    Horizon: Oakland and Chicago State would also be candidates to replace Butler, but IUPUI just makes the most sense with the league being based in Indianapolis.

    Summit: The core of the league is rapidly becoming the eastern border of the Great Plains states. That alone makes North Dakota a sensible replacement for IUPUI. The only other candidate that might really consider joining is probably Chicago State, but I doubt they’d get invited back after leaving a few years ago.

  • I think they just decided that it was not worth playing football at the Division I level. I know that had to hurt Trev Alberts to do that. They would have moved to a bigger conference if they wanted to play football at the Division I level. I don’t know what they will decide to do in the future.

  • Part of the arrangement with the Big Sky for UCD/CP, the Big West said they wouldn’t poach any schools (Sac St) nor would the schools seek to join the Big West. But it does make too much sense: let Sac St. goto the Big west so the Big Sky can get to 10 members for most sports.

  • Jacob Jackson

    Matt, please tell me what you think of this scenario:

    1. Sacramento State, looking to cut travel expenses, leaves the Big Sky for the Big West.

    2. UC-San Diego makes the leap to Division I, making an even 12 in the BWC along with Sac State.

    If you think about the Big Sky’s recent additions, they may have paved the way for this move. For one, they’ve established a precedent of the Big Sky allowing football-only members (CP and Davis), which Sac would still want to be. Additionally, the Big Sky’s moves have moved the conference uncomfortably east for Sac. Does Sac State really want to make annual, all-sports trips to North Dakota and Southern Utah?

    Sac State’s all-but-football departure would put the Big Sky at an even 10 for hoops, which is obviously more desirable. This is another reason that I think the Big Sky would be okay with them leaving – it might make the scheduling and logistics better for the rest of the conference.

    What do you guys think?

  • I do get your logic. Having football is about the only way they could “upgrade” past the Summit. But there aren’t any real options. It’s not like the MVC is going to bring in UNO when they have so many better, established D1 options. Not like the Big Sky is an upgrade either. The Summit/MVFC is pretty much it for any school in the region. No place up to go, only to lesser conferences like Southland, Big Sky, etc (lesser as basketball is ranked lower in those conferences than Summit).

  • Nebraska-Omaha had to do something to cut the costs of moving up to Division I. They may eventually add those sports back if they move to a bigger conference.

  • I am surprised UNO is dropping the wrestling program as it was one of their more competitive programs. I am not surprised about football because there seemed to be little interest and success in the sport.

    What does this move mean for UNO hockey?

    How about a UNO – Creighton rivalry?


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