After it was announced that New Mexico State football would be leaving the Sun Belt Conference, their administration has mentioned that they would form a committee to research a move looking into a new conference for their Olympic sports. Their administration mentioned The Big Sky as a conference that they have been in contact with, and one other unnamed conference. The move would more than likely break up the WAC, which is just the worst anyway, so how about we open up a topic of: Could the Summit League be growing anytime soon.
Here are some potential schools that could join the Summit League as a 10th member from the WAC or just something at random I felt like bringing up.
New Mexico State
Geographically there are conferences that would work out better for New Mexico State for their non-football sports. The SWAC, Southland, Big West, Big Sky, and the West Coast Conference all come to mind as suitors for New Mexico State to join. The Mountain West would too if the conference wanted to take on a 13th football member. Have you heard Wichita State has thought of adding football and joining the Mountain West? Oh wait, anyway…
You might be thinking that New Mexico State could be a travel partner with Denver, but really New Mexico State is a 9 hour drive from Denver. This is a school that is currently in a conference with programs in Kansas City, Chicago, and Seattle; so Denver may not be all that far away really in their minds. And Denver dream every week of joining a new conference. They’re probably somewhere right now discussing about how moving to the Big West would be better than the Summit League.
The school is open to the possibility of moving to FCS in football and maybe the Missouri Valley would be the most competitive conference for them to move into than the Big Sky. I have a friend who was a quarterback at Montana, and he said he would be against New Mexico State joining the Big Sky because it would put them at 15 teams with Idaho also joining the conference in 2018…and that is just too many damn teams. Though, the back up quarterback for Montana in the early 2000s does not decide who joins or leaves the conference. Or could he? It could be like that terrible Swing Vote movie with Kevin Costner that only Kevin Costner and whatever family member he forced to go with saw.
Again, the Aggies joining the Summit is a long shot, but the school could really help improve baseball for the Summit League. It would put the league at 7 baseball programs, and it is never bad for your conference to get more South and more West for baseball and softball recruiting. Aggies Baseball is coached by Brian (not Austin) Green, who is a former assistant of Kentucky and UCLA. He helped take the Aggies from a 10 win team to a 34 win team in baseball.
So maybe New Mexico State does join the The Big Sky and the conference does annoyingly have too many teams. If that happens, some school may want to get out of the conference. Maybe that school is Northern Colorado. It would make sense. Their football team could move to the Missouri Valley for football, wrestling would still be in the Big 12 with North Dakota State, and Denver would have a travel partner. Again, Denver is apparently a wild card in remaining in the Summit League.
The Bears may not be the most competitive athletic program, but it works out as far as what sports they have to offer. It would be hard for me to turn down a weekend trip to Colorado for the Mavericks versus the Pioneers and Bears. A weekend of college basketball, and possibly NBA basketball, hiking, Illegal Pete’s breakfast burritos, breweries, and maybe some hockey.
Really, why did they leave the Summit League? I was a little pumped to get to Kansas City to see the Kangaroos and Mavericks play year after year. There was a decent number of Maverick fans that made the drive when I went in 2013. I don’t think I can turn down a short drive to see the Mavericks and the prospect of eating at Oklahoma Joe’s. Now, I’ve got a shorter drive to look forward to get to Vermillion and eat at…Chick Fil-A is probably pretty exciting I guess. I just crave their cups of expired fruit.
If the WAC did end up breaking up, I really do not see where else the Kangaroos could go. Hold on, I just tried to think of how to compare the ridiculousness of UMKC asking to get back into the Summit League to my Trump loving uncle asking me for portions of spaghetti noodles in the 2020 American Civil War.
UMKC has very fan support. The Kangaroos have under performed in basketball the last few years under Kareem Richardson. Men’s soccer has a losing record in WAC games. They have no baseball and no football. Their main bargaining chip is that Kansas City is a pretty fun place, and I think we’re actually all okay with that.
Honestly, I just really think that the Summit League needs to go all in to get Drake to join the conference. I have no idea what I mean “go all in” because I don’t know what the official conversations consist of when a conference invites a school to join. Maybe we wave some fees? Give them a post season tournament? Buy them a steak? Squeak a cute dog toy in their direction and say “cooooooommmmeeee onnnnn.”
I have never really heard of Drake being consistently competitive in anything in the Missouri Valley, and for some reason their football team plays in the Pioneer League? Their women’s basketball, volleyball, and softball team have been okay the last few years, but nothing great. Drake could consistently be in the top half of every sport in the Summit League.
The Bulldogs in the Summit could help recruit some more Iowa kids to the conference, and open up another place like Des Moines for Summit League championships. I’m told that Des Moines is a great place by every boring person on the planet.
The Bears men’s basketball have not been eligible for post season play for the past two seasons due to APR penalties, so they may not be the most ideal program to add to the Summit League. Russ Pennell actually seems like he could turn their basketball program around with a little time. Other men’s teams are really not all that competitive, but their women’s teams are all pretty competitive in the Southland. The women’s basketball team finished the season at 28-4 with a trip to the NCAA tournament; and tennis; softball; and volleyball all finished with winning records as well.
Central Arkansas may actually benefit from joining the Summit League than the Summit League would benefit from Central Arkansas joining the conference. They could join the conference as a travel partner with Oral Roberts as they are only 3 hours away from Tulsa. The closest Southland school to Conway, Arkansas is a 5 hour drive. My initial feeling if Central Arkansas were to join the Summit League would be that the Denver fans would want out of the conference, but they find a new reason to get out of the Summit League every week.
By the way, they call their women’s teams the “Sugar Bears.”