First off thanks to everyone that read and commented on the blog over the last two weeks on our countdown of top moments this school year, understand that some disagreed with what we selected, but that was the fun part about it. We’ll have another video countdown coming in the next two weeks that will get people geared up for the start of the football season that I think you’ll enjoy.
As many know July 1 signifies the start of a new school year and it also signifies the start date of many schools switching leagues. While this year there isn’t nearly as many as there have been in past years, there are still some that have direct and indirect impact on NDSU.
DIRECT IMPACT – ORAL ROBERTS
The Golden Eagles return to the Summit League after a two year run in the Southland Conference. The immediate impact is obvious in basketball, despite the fact that ORU hasn’t won the conference tournament title since NDSU or SDSU became eligible in 2009. But their track record adds credibility to a league that suddenly looks a bit better than it did two years ago. Oral Roberts is coming off two average seasons, 17-16 this past season, 20-15 the year before with a trip to the CIT quarters. The impact isn’t just in men’s basketball, women’s basketball has been a consistently solid squad, women’s golf and volleyball have been good and baseball has been off the charts dominating, winning 15 consecutive titles before leaving in 2012. The Eagles bring the Summit League to 9 schools for 2014-15, 8 eligible for the postseason, Omaha is still in its transition, the most important sport for ORU to have an impact on is baseball, that brings the league to six and keeps its NCAA requirement to receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
INDIRECT IMPACT – APPALACHIAN STATE AND GEORGIA SOUTHERN
The Mountaineers and Eagles started their transition last year, but are now full fledged members of the Sun Belt as of today. There’s no denying that Bison fans will be fully plugged into how ASU and GSU perform this fall considering the success they had at the FCS level. Each are still trying to get into the recruiting game and get up to speed with the rest of the conference, Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State were the class of the league last year and the additions of New Mexico State and Idaho are certainly not going to bulk up the strength. It’s not unreasonable to think that these two schools can be contenders in the league and even make a bowl within a couple of years(ineligible till 2015). Mark your calendars for September 25th, the two schools play each other as FBS teams for the first time on a Thursday night on ESPNU.
INDIRECT IMPACT – THE REST OF THE SOCON
For a while the Southern Conference could argue they were the best league in the FCS with App State winning three national titles in a row and Georgia Southern being a consistent title contender. Those days are a long way off now with those two gone, and that doesn’t count Davidson, the conference’s best in basketball leaving for the A-10. Elon is leaving for the Colonial with a 10-24 record after the last three years. What’s left? Two schools NDSU knows well; Wofford and Furman, it’s safe to say those are the two that will challenge yearly for the auto-bid(throw Chattanooga into the mix as well). The league adds three teams today, Mercer, VMI and East Tennessee State, Mercer is famous for its 1st round upset of Duke this year in the NCAA basketball tournament; they just brought football back and had been playing non-scholarship in the Pioneer League. VMI has been struggling in the Big South for years and ETSU will be bringing back football in 2015 and playing at a high school field for the first two years they return. The league took the biggest hits of realignment, this could easily be a one-bid league for the FCS playoffs in 2014 and possibly for the foreseeable future.
INDIRECT IMPACT – IDAHO
The biggest cautionary tale out there for moving from FCS to FBS belongs to Idaho. The Vandals saw their league disintegrate around them (the WAC) and were left without a football home. Idaho’s AD has resisted all overtures about going back to FCS but it seems inevitable to not just me, but Doug Fullerton, the commissioner of the Big Sky. Idaho re-joins the Big Sky today in all sports, but one, football, where they join the Sun Belt and its nearest rival is New Mexico State. They were left on a geographical island and that’s one of the biggest reasons against a move up if you’re NDSU or Northern Iowa. You had better have some geographical allies before you go.
Those are the schools that have some impact with NDSU that are moving today, if you can figure out who’s in Conference USA and the American Athletic Conference, you’re really doing well!