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 Post subject: How much trouble?
PostPosted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 12:37 pm 
Opinion question: How much trouble do you think the MAC is really in? I'm a big MAC fan and would hate to see it totally change from the landscape it is at right now. Obviously UCF and Marshall are gone, but who will be out for attendence reasons? Kent? Akron? Buffalo? EMU? CMU? People also say BG is in trouble, but I don't see it, esspecially playing well, and there is a strong fan base. I think the MAC really needs to stay at least at 9 teams. I'm not huge on a championship game anyways. Could MTSU or Temple be in the mix? Just wondering....


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 Post subject: How much trouble?
PostPosted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 2:31 pm 
The MAC has enough schools that can meet the attendance requirements that it will survive. If more schools end up leaving the MAC for CUSA it will be a big problem.

I would say the MAC has a solid 8 programs above 15,000 level (NIU, WMU, BSU, UT, BG, MU, OU, and CMU) Central is just shy of 15,000 this season but should finish above that number. The CMU program actually led the MAC in attendance in much of the 90's with averages over 20,000 so the tradition of support is there. BG's attendance is kind of unstable, but they do have a big edge having a rivalry game every other year against Toledo at home which is always a packed house. BG has backed up its winning with stadium improvements and it appears better support is starting to take root there with an average of about 20,000 this year up from 10,000 about 5 years ago.

The four with the biggest attendance problem in the MAC are Buffalo, Kent, Akron, and EMU. The face the combined problem of bad weather, no tradition, poor facilities, and suitcase students not in town on the weekends. None of these programs have a history of making the 15,000 despite a their large alumni bases nearby. Kent, Akron and Buffalo are located in or near pro sports towns, with a pro mentality. EMU is only 10 miles away from the University of Michigan, killing any attempt of building a strong local fan base. EMU, Buffalo, and Akron are relatively new to the world of big time college football, and fan loyalty to bigger athletic operations (college and pro) was already long established.

Exactly how the MAC is going to be affected by the attendance requirements is not entirely clear at this point. There could be lawsuits, or a grandfathering of existing division 1-A programs. Within the next year these issues should further clarify as schools receive their low attendance notices in the mail.

Regarding Temple and MTSU, the wisest move is to wait and see how the attendance requirements play out before making any additions. MTSU has attendance problems right now. The future of Temple's football is uncertain without Big East membership. The MAC will probably stay put at 12 in the near term until the attendance issues are settled.



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 Post subject: How much trouble?
PostPosted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 8:33 pm 
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A lot.

I think Akron is gone. They can't draw even when good and they have stadium issues.

EMU can't make it long term.

Hopefully the rest can, but they have to make it 8 out of 10 years. Kent and Buffalo are in deep trouble, but might be ok if they could win. Big IF. And Kent is the best all sports program in the MAC.

Bowling Green, Ball St., NIU and CMU might be in trouble with the new rules. They will probably make 15k the majority of the time, but will they make it 8 out of 10?

Toledo, WMU, Miami and Ohio should be ok, but there's no guarantee on Miami and Ohio.


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 Post subject: How much trouble?
PostPosted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 8:34 pm 
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If they only lose 2, the MAC could wind up stronger.


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 Post subject: How much trouble?
PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 2004 8:53 am 
When some of us suggested the MAC thin the herd, we didn't necessarily mean The Herd. :-/ However, Bullett is correct in that the MAC may benefit by subtraction.

I'm unsure of the budgetary implications, but clearly there are several programs that seem incapable of sustaining themselves at 1-A. This is not an indictment of fan support, but rather the need for ADs and administrators to gain perspective on what type of football program works for their institution. 1-A ball requires investment over time, and experience has shown that investment cannot be made as homecoming-fodder unless you're within a major conference - Vandy, Duke, Rutgers. The MAC as an organization needs to ask is members to confirm the level of committment they wish to pursue and then see where that takes them as a league. As the MAC and other programs review their fates in line with the new 1-A standards, perhaps the time will come for some other great realignment involving the MAC, the Belt, and several 1-AA schools.

I'd like to see the MAC drop 3-4 current football programs, which I don't think would greatly alter their TV contracts. Kent St., EMU and Buffalo would be the first to go. Adding Temple would likely be a short-term fix, IMO.


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 Post subject: How much trouble?
PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 2004 10:43 am 
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The burning question, for those of you who have been around this year... are the attedance counts going to hold up? Has anyone seen audited counts? That's where this gets interesting (see the Nevada stories on the 1-A requirements thread).


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 Post subject: How much trouble?
PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 2004 1:10 pm 

Quote:
The burning question, for those of you who have been around this year... are the attendance counts going to hold up? Has anyone seen audited counts? That's where this gets interesting (see the Nevada stories on the 1-A requirements thread).


From what I've heard around MAC circles is some schools are actually under counting, having problems with getting everyone in the stadium to walk through the turnstiles. At WMU and CMU its been a big problem this year, and to a lessor extent at Ohio and Miami-Ohio.

Most of the MAC began moving to the actual attendance standard about two years ago. Once that occurred, Ball State began reporting lower numbers, but for the most part what the MAC schools have traditionally reported is accurate because they rely on walk up crowds to fill the seats. They aren't selling more tickets than people who attend.

One MAC school in need of an audit is Eastern Michigan which from accounts is reporting about double of the actual attendance in the stadium. The box score reports say EMU is averaging close to 17k this season but that isn't really the case. In fact, EMU has only averaged 15,000 four times in its history, the last time being in the mid 90's.

NIU is now drawing 27,000 a game which is uncharted territory for that school. They've never averaged over 23,000 before. When they rejoined the MAC they were drawing about 12,000 a game. They've improved from 14,000 in 2001, 20,000 in 2002, 23,000 in 2003, and now 27,000 in 2004. Their stadium only seats 28,000 so where it goes beyond this will require an expansion.


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 Post subject: How much trouble?
PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 2004 9:16 pm 
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What's hard to understand is exactly why the MAC has SO much trouble. They are large institutions in populated areas and the only competition is the Big 10. They ought to do about the same as the current CUSA which has similar size institutions and the SEC in its territory and also has the Sun Belt to compete with. But the MAC is not as strong and draws barely half as many. It seems to be just a lack of committment.


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 Post subject: How much trouble?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 10:29 am 

Quote:
What's hard to understand is exactly why the MAC has SO much trouble. They are large institutions in populated areas and the only competition is the Big 10. They ought to do about the same as the current CUSA which has similar size institutions and the SEC in its territory and also has the Sun Belt to compete with. But the MAC is not as strong and draws barely half as many. It seems to be just a lack of commitment.


I've mentioned the weather issue hurting the MAC on an earlier post. With most of the MAC schools in Ohio and Michigan it has a mid-major bus league setup. Too many schools in the same area to be able to recruit effectively or to market as a big time school. How can you market Western Michigan as big time football when they play in the same division as Central and Eastern Michigan. To the common fan that is not major football. If you had just Western Michigan in 1-A, they would have distance between Central and Eastern and the perception of WMU would be more like an East Carolina.

CUSA schools have vastly different histories than the MAC. Many CUSA schools for years played in a major conference. SMU, Rice, Houston played in the SWC. UTEP in the old WAC. Tulane in the SEC. Memphis, Southern Miss, and East Carolina as Southern Independents. UAB has been considered high major in basketball for years. CUSA schools have long shed the mid-major tag. In some cases they've never had it.

The MAC was a Division 1-AA level conference playing Division 1-A ball until about 10 years ago. Schools in the MAC have gradually built programs over time. A press box here, a indoor facility there. Today most of the schools in the MAC have the Division 1-A look to their stadium. MAC schools rely for the most part on alumni support, and its going to take time before the new realities of their programs set in.

Don't forget, some of the MAC schools play in very small towns. Mt.Pleasant, Oxford, Athens, Bowling Green; all towns that are exclusively the college. Greenville and Hattiesburg are much bigger towns. DeKalb of NIU would be comparable in size to Hattiesburg and at NIU you find the Huskie's averaging 27,000 now that they have some tradition. Kalamazoo is bigger than Greenville, and Western Michigan has had crowds of 35,000+ when it was winning.

And remember, the only ones in the MAC that have SO much trouble with attendance are Kent, Akron, Buffalo, EMU. They are consistently bad, and buried behind pro sports. Kent in the early 70's was ranked and selling out its then state of the art football stadium. Once Akron joined 1-A in 1987, Kent's program and following began to decline because playing in D1-A didn't mean anything anymore with Akron right next door. EMU was a Division II school until the 70's, and they've had little winning at Division 1-A. Buffalo is not a big enough town to give support to the Bills and the Bulls.

Once you look at all the factors that are holding MAC programs back from drawing better, weak attendance is not a big surprise.


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 Post subject: How much trouble?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 10:34 am 

Quote:
If they only lose 2, the MAC could wind up stronger.


Eastern Michigan and Akron should of never been invited. All they do is take recruits away from Central Michigan and Kent who would have stronger football teams otherwise.


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 Post subject: How much trouble?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 12:55 pm 
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Good point, Joe, about the lack of heritage for the MAC. The press and fans in the upper MW just got used to regarding those schools as minor. Miami's years with Big Ben are over, and Marshall is leaving. Doesn't bode well.


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 Post subject: How much trouble?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 1:44 pm 
Weren't Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan invited to the MAC (to complement charter member Western Michigan) at the same time?


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 Post subject: How much trouble?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 3:17 pm 

Quote:
Weren't Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan invited to the MAC (to complement charter member Western Michigan) at the same time?


Thats true. Central and Eastern were brought into the MAC at the same time. The main reason for them joining the league was the MAC's commitment to the then purposed Division 1-A football. CMU and EMU used to play in the Interstate-Intercollegiate Division II football conference with Illinois St, Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois, and Northern Illinois. CMU, EMU, and NIU decided they would rather play in Division 1-A so they moved up.

CMU's rational for moving up was strong attendance and success in Division II. This is despite being rather remote in the northern half of Michigan's lower peninsula. They have, and still do have a region wide following, and used to travel well to other MAC stadiums. The Chips won two MAC championships in their first 5 years in the league.

EMU's rational for moving up was more centered around geographics than actual support. With CMU, WMU in the league, and both Bowling Green and Toledo within a 90 minute drive it made perfect sense to follow WMU. It also made sense for the MAC because at the time the MAC only had 6 schools (WMU, BG, UT, MU, Kent, OU) in the conference and needed to bulk up on geographically sensible members (BSU, NIU, EMU, CMU).

When EMU first joined the MAC in the early 70's it had some of the worst facilities in the league, on top of struggling mightily in Football and Basketball. The MAC was very unhappy with EMU and had thought of expelling them from the conference in the early 80's much like they did with Marshall in 1968.

Northern Illinois was the most antsy because they had just won a MAC championship in the early 80's and the MAC was not doing well in Division 1-A. NIU had big dreams about sometime landing in the Big 8 and they gave the MAC an ultimatum; Either the MAC kicks out Eastern Michigan, or NIU is going to leave the MAC. The MAC refused to drop EMU, so NIU left and became an independent. Leaving the conference ended up being a bigger mistake for NIU than for the MAC, and they came back into the league desperate.



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 Post subject: How much trouble?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2004 4:33 pm 

Quote:
Good point, Joe, about the lack of heritage for the MAC. The press and fans in the upper MW just got used to regarding those schools as minor. Miami's years with Big Ben are over, and Marshall is leaving. Doesn't bode well.


Traditionally, the strong football programs in the MAC are MiamiOH, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, and Toledo. This group has won the majority of MAC championships. MiamiOH has 14 winning seasons in the last 15. Toledo has 16 winning seasons in the last 17. There is a level of consistency with the Toledo and MiamiOH programs.

Marshall with its success was hogging up bowl games an TV slots, exposure the rest of the MAC could used. The MAC's TV deal with ESPN was extended for a year, after Marshall decided to leave. And the MAC plans to have a third bowl game in place for 2005. Marshall's departure hasn't damaged the league. By leaving they've created a void in the MAC East Division that will probably be filled by Bowling Green moving over from the MAC West.

Then in men's basketball, Marshall was a mid level program that did little more than create a log jam in the standings. One basketball season a couple of years ago, about 8 schools finished between a 9-7 and 7-9 conference mark. Too much parity in this league prevented the MAC from picking up a second at-large bid to the tourney. Marshall doesn't travel very well in basketball, especially to the conference tourney at the Gund Arena in Cleveland.

With 13 schools, the MAC had an unbalanced number in basketball and had to play a wacky 18 game conference schedule. Now with just 12 schools in the MAC, they can play on a 16 game conference schedule that is better for the fans with a later start to conference play. And a 16 game schedule allows for more non-conference opponents to be scheduled, which is more opportunity for a MAC school to play a big name opponent.

I think the MAC of 2005 will be less frustrating than recent years that have seen only 2 bowl bids for a 14 team league, and only 1 NCAA tourney bid for 13 schools. The big question that yet remains is how the MAC will survive the attendance requirement in football and how the league will respond if membership changes need to be made.


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