Fort Wayne’s departure leaves the Summit League in a tough spot

As expected, Fort Wayne is leaving the Summit League for the Horizon League.

Good for the ‘Dons. The move is much better for them, they’re going to be within driving distance to more than half of the schools in the conference (I’m just assuming that, I’m too bitter and I’m hiding my anger to look it up).

I’m going to miss the Fort Wayne fans banter online, they were the best at it out of the Summit League schools, but that might be because they were too far from any other conference foe to travel for actual events so they just took their rage out online.

As fun as the UNO and IPFW basketball match ups were, I literally cannot remember seeing anyone in the Ralston Arena or the Baxter Arena in a Mastodon shirt. I’ve seen every other Summit League opponent represented by fans in Omaha, but never Fort Wayne.

It was obvious Fort Wayne wanted to leave the Summit for the Horizon League, they were pretty public about it, but I personally thought it might be a while as I assumed the Horizon League would be apprehensive about going to 11 members.  But hey, maybe they’re going to add a 12th member.

Okay, yeah, good for them. Now here we are as Summit League fans thinking we’d be back to 10 schools in the conference, with the future addition of UMKC, but nope we’re going to be at 9 schools again.  Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool.

Aside from that, the conference will only have 5 schools with baseball programs, which will drop the school from having an automatic bid for the NCAA baseball tournament. I’m currently blaming geography, but the Summit League will have to work quickly to find another baseball program.  They will have a grace period of 2 years to find another program before losing the automatic bid.

So who are we going to add? This is where I’m about to just list off some schools as potential suitors and why they might be a good or a stupid idea for the Summit League.


Augustana

There has been documented interest of Augustana moving up to division one and joining the Summit League, though other Summit League schools aren’t super cool with adding another Dakota to the conference.

The Vikings have everything the Summit League wants. They don’t have men’s soccer, but maybe they pull an Omaha and drop football (and wrestling) for men’s soccer. The athletics program is consistently competitive in all their sports, they even won the Division 2 Men’s Basketball Championship in 2016. There would be obvious growing pains in the transition phase, and they would have to compete with two in state division one programs in recruiting, so perhaps they wouldn’t have that same consistency in the Summit League as they do in division two. They might actually steal recruits away from the Jackrabbits…okay, I’m starting to talk myself into Augustana.

Denver has apparently threatened to leave the conference if Augustana joined the Summit League, but Denver is always going to threaten to leave the conference, so who cares anymore?

Personally, I think the prospect of a school in the same city as the conference basketball tournaments and the league headquarters coming into the conference is just annoying. If Augustana is going to join the conference, move the conference tournament around a bit. Throw the conference tournament in Omaha, Kansas City, or Denver. I get how much money comes rolling into Sioux Falls, but it’s seriously not fair for any non-South Dakota school fan base to be away from a Tuesday night conference championship year after year.


Chicago State

Like UMKC, Chicago State is being punched in the mouth with travel costs in the WAC. The athletic program does have baseball, they’d create a travel partner for Western Illinois. The Cougars don’t have men’s soccer, and on top of that, Chicago State is just bad at athletics. The school recently even looked into moving down to division 2.

Here is Chicago State’s team records over the last 5 years…

Baseball: 60-205-1

Men’s basketball: 24-135

Women’s basketball: 11-136 (7 Summit League programs had more than 11 wins in 2018-2019)

Women’s soccer: 3-87-2 (6 Summit League programs had more than 3 wins in 2018-2019)

Volleyball: 29-122

Chicago State moving to the Summit League would help Chicago State, and other than just bringing baseball to 6 teams Chicago State wouldn’t help the Summit League.

A division 2 school reclassifying and joining the Summit League might have quicker success than Chicago State in the conference.


Drake

Drake would be cool for a number of reasons.  It’s a manageable driving distance from Omaha, the South Dakota schools, and Kansas City. They’d raise the competitive bar in a few different sports. The Bulldogs don’t have baseball program because baseball in the state of Iowa can be summed up with a sad face emoji. So Drake won’t be happening anytime soon.


Minnesota State- Mankato

When I was a student at UNO, students used to constantly ask what it would be like if UNO became division one. I find myself wondering if Mankato students ask the same division one questions about their own school.

The con here is that Mankato is also known as the Mavericks, and I would throw a lot of money into a pot every year trying to get Durgano and Stomper to box as half time entertainment at a basketball game.

A Minnesota school in the Summit League could hurt recruiting in the Summit League. With no mid-major program in the state, Minnesota has been a great recruiting zone for the Dakotas and Omaha.


Northern Colorado

One of few schools that could benefit the athletic program and the Summit League.

Northern Colorado would create a travel partner for Denver. The Bears baseball and swimming & diving programs currently compete as affiliate members in the WAC, they could go full Summit with these programs.

Other than Denver, the Bears would have to fly to every program in the Summit League, but they already have to do that now in the Big Sky.


SIU Edwardsville

SIUE in the past has been in talks of leaving the Ohio Valley Conference. Geographically, the Horizon would make more sense than the Summit League for the Cougars. The OVC already makes more sense, but hey whatever, the athletic program apparently talked to the WAC a while back, and that conferences makes the least amount of sense.

Edwardsville would create a travel partner for Western Illinois. They are also less than 4 hours away from Kansas City.

Additionally, SIUE isn’t Chicago State.


Saint Louis

This is the least likely scenario, but the Billikins playing in the Atlantic 10 makes no actual sense to me. The Missouri Valley, The Ohio Valley, and the Horizon League would be more likely destinations for Saint Louis, but why can’t the Summit League dream?

We’ve already got a travel partner for them with UMKC. Actually, Macomb is closer to St. Louis than Kansas City is, but who cares?

I already have to go to movie theaters in Omaha and sit through advertisements by St. Louis trying to attract Omaha high school students to their university. The least they could do is write a letter to the Omaha World Herald why you won’t join the Summit League. I’m not asking for a lot here.

I know Tom Douple and the Summit League is quiet about their conversations with potential schools joining the Summit League, but if they’re not trying to attract Saint Louis, I’d seriously like to know why. The only thing I could think of is that it would upset South Dakota State fans as their program wouldn’t be the top dog in men’s basketball.


LET’S GET NUTS

You want to get nuts? Let’s get nuts.

We want to get everyone happy? We want to get everyone travel partners? Let’s get after this thing.

Tom Douple gets Northern Colorado, St. Louis, and Drake in a room. Like a nice room, a nice catered event, everyone likes free food. I’m thinking little smokies. We pitch all three, we get the Summit League up to 12 programs. We’ve got more home games for these schools and less flights for just about everyone.

Denver has a travel partner. Western Illinois has a travel partner. SIU Edwardsville has a travel partner. Oral Roberts becomes the school that’s just kind of in a weird place, but they seem fine with it. Some weasel faced writer from Ohio isn’t condescending when he hears about a Summit-Horizon League challenge.

We can move this conference basketball tournament around between Sioux Falls, Fargo, Omaha, Denver, Tulsa, St. Louis. It’s fun, we’re all happy except for Denver since there is no pleasing them. There is also some Jackrabbit fan that’s all pissy cause all they care about is themselves.

It’s an insane idea, but you got to dream, right?

Yes, I understand the percentage of this plan working is less than the winning percentage of any given Chicago State team winning percentage.

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