Football

Is the Missouri Valley Closing the Gap on the MAC?

Is the Missouri Valley Closing the Gap on the MAC?

It’s a question fans of #MACtion don’t want any part of, but after another weekend where our favorite conference that plays games in the middle of the week had a team lose to the Football Championship Subdivision, it needs to be asked. Let’s explore it a bit closer.

We’ll use a sample size of the last six years, going back to 2012. I understand NDSU’s success against the MAC came much earlier, but for the purpose of this blog, let’s use that as a starting point.

Since 2012, nine FCS teams have knocked off MAC schools, four of them from the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Only four teams have been immune to the FCS bug; Akron, Toledo, Central Michigan and Ohio. What’s the reason for the losses? The Mo Valley style of football has proven to be successful no matter who you are playing, look no further than what South Dakota did last weekend at Bowling Green.

What are the other reasons? Recruiting is obviously a major one. Let’s look at NDSU’s most recent class, where NDSU beat out the MAC for two players in Tanner Sundt and Logan McCormick. McCormick is already playing and Sundt is expected to be very good. The Bison aren’t the only ones that have had success recruiting against the MAC, as SDSU, South Dakota and Illinois State all have feasted on players that the MAC has offered.

Exposure is another. We all love MACtion and the schools certainly love the money from ESPN.When the conference negotiated its most recent contract, each school received anywhere between $830,000 to $845,000 per school. That also gave ESPN the liberty to move some games around and the network has done that with games on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It’s become a constant joke with college football fans across the nation about #MACtion, but something that isn’t a joke is the lack of fans that go to those games. Outside of Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Ohio and Central Michigan, there are games played where you can shoot a cannon thru there and not hit anybody. Recruits see that. They also see a packed Fargodome on a Saturday, or the shiny new stadium in Brookings, or the renovated stadium in Normal, to indoor stadiums in Cedar Falls and Vermillion, which also boast big crowds. That’s a big deal for a high school junior or senior to be playing in front of a big crowd and know that the college they’re going to cares about that particular program.

Yes, the MAC can brag about national exposure each week in late October thru November. They can brag about having a team reach the Cotton Bowl last year, as Western Michigan faced Wisconsin on New Year’s Day. But they have been damaged by FCS losses, four teams alone lost games in 2016. The MAC doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to schedule games against the Missouri Valley either; there are only two games on future schedules, Western Illinois plays at Ball State in 2021 and Illinois State just scheduled a game with Northern Illinois for 2019.

We’ve said for a long time the MAC wasn’t going to be calling the 701 area code anytime soon. It appears they’re not calling many in the Missouri Valley.

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