July 1, 2012 officially begins a new school year across the nation and with it re-alignment central. Faithful readers of the blog know that I’m crazy and relentless with this stuff, but now we start to see the actual change of things that we’ve been talking about for the better part of two years. We’d be silly to think this the end of it, especially with the new football playoff being created, but sights like West Virginia in the Big 12 and Missouri and Texas A&M in the SEC is just the start of the craziness. With that being said, plenty of changes are directly affecting NDSU, we’ll feature a story on those changes tomorrow night on WDAY 6 Sports at 10. Today we’ll outline them for those that lost track(which is not that hard to do!)
Obviously the headliner leaving is Oral Roberts. A known commodity in the men’s basketball word, the average fan had at least heard of the school before NDSU joined the Summit League. I remember the first time ORU came to Fargo in March of 2008, the year before the Bison were eligible for the Summit Tournament and NDSU clobbered them. The seeds of a great rivalry were planted then, it fully bloomed the following year when NDSU went to Tulsa and beat the Eagles to win the Summit League Championship at the Mabee Center, a place ORU never loses. Even the times NDSU was beat by ORU at the Summit Tournament in 2010 and ’11 were great games. It’s a huge loss for the league, there is no other way to sugarcoat it. Oral Roberts finished with an RPI ranking of 48, they beat a top 10 team in Xavier this year, and now take that reputation and prestige to the Southland Conference, a league that ranked 28th out of 32 in RPI ranking. The Summit’s ranking will dip next year no doubt, but do you take the dip in RPI for an easier road to the NCAA Tournament? A question that may seem easy to answer now, but lack of national respect, reputation and certaintly the idea of 2 bids from the league is LONG-gone for now. Southern Utah leaves today for the Big Sky as well, and while no one will miss the horrendous travel to get to Cedar City, the Thunderbirds always were a capable opponent, including coming to Fargo in 2009 and upsetting the Bison, NDSU’s only home loss that year. In comes Nebraska-Omaha, which for the average fan, it’s a school that fans will recognize, but for the moment doesn’t bring much to the table. UNO will have to go thru the same thing NDSU went thru, playing a lot of road games, playing a lot of high-majors before the transition is done. In just a basketball sense, this is a terrible trade-off. But college athletics is about money, and in that sense, this move makes terrific sense. Losing plane trips to Tulsa and Las Vegas(then busing to CC) for a bus trip to Omaha? You do that trade every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Gene Taylor told me that the Summit League is content to hold on with 9 teams this year, but we know Oakland is being pursued by the Horizon, and who knows what else may happen during the next school year. In my mind there’s one certainty: the Summit best be looking for the next options to join, just because you’re a conference champ,doesn’t make you a great team, especially if the competition is sub-par.
The move here isn’t as dramatic with South Dakota joining the Missouri Valley Football Conference, but it certaintly changes everything that Bison fans have grown accustomed to since 2008. Now with 10 teams in the Valley, that means for the first time, every team will not play one another during the regular season. USD has shown the ability to play with some of the top teams at the FCS and FBS level, already with wins over Minnesota in 2010 and then beating defending FCS champ Eastern Washington last year. The Coyotes also bring in a known commodity in Joe Glenn, familiar to plenty of Bison fans from his days at Northern Colorado and Montana. The ‘Yotes will be plenty competitive and that game between NDSU and USD in Sioux Falls will be a great atmosphere, especially with it being a night game. The one bi-product is like I mentioned not every team will play one another this year and that could seriously affect the standings by the end of the year, here’s a look at who won’t play who this year:
NDSU won’t play Western Illinois
Illinois State won’t play South Dakota State
Indiana State won’t play Northern Iowa
Missouri State won’t play Youngstown State
South Dakota won’t play Southern Illinois
Two of these games I see as wins (NDSU and Youngstown) but the other three are toss-up’s that who knows how it could affect the league race. Makes me wonder if the league wouldn’t try to go to 2 divisions of 5 teams. You play your division rivals every year and then mix up the other four opponents, divisions could look like this:
NDSU, SDSU, USD, Northern Iowa and Western Illinois
Southern Illinois, Youngstown State, Indiana State, Illinois State and Missouri State.
Welcome to a new school year and with it, a new year of re-alignment, there’s no doubt though the talk of movement is just beginning at this level.