Roundtable last call! If you are a BlogPoller who wants to get responses in for the roundtable, do it today. I'm going to post a summary tomorrow, if all goes well between now and then.
North Dakota has Bison Envy. It was announced yesterday that the University of North Dakota is going to move all their sports teams to Division I. Right now, everything except hockey is Division II, but UND will push them all up, which will cause them to leave the North Central Conference.
A few things. First off, this is a really nasty case of, well, Bison Envy. I'd use a different five-letter word, but my mother might be reading this.
UND just can't stand seeing North Dakota State, a longtime rival, being the only Division I school in the state. NDSU moved up a few years ago, and their men's basketball team made national headlines last January when they beat Wisconsin. Now, UND can try to best NDSU at the next level.
It's a move that will add around $2 million per year to UND's athletic budget, and it's a move that could work well for the Sioux. The athletic programs all compete at a high level in Division II. They're pretty much all competitive in the NCC, and many of them are usually competitive on a national level. They have well-coached teams, they recruit great athletes, and UND has top-notch facilities for their programs.
On the other hand, does anyone really believe that North Dakota is a state that was screaming to have two Division I schools? It should be interesting to see if both schools can thrive after moving up.
Also noteworthy is the future of the NCC. Since NDSU, South Dakota State, and Northern Colorado made the jump, the NCC has been short on teams. They added UMD in response to losing those schools, but were down to seven teams in most sports (the NCC has added Central Washington and Western Washington for football). With UND gone, the NCC could be facing a crossroads.
The Grand Forks Herald reports that South Dakota has formed a committee to explore the move, and St. Cloud State AD Morris Kurtz is quoted in the article as saying that they, too, will explore their options. I'm relatively certain that USD is gonzo. They'll go because their main NCC rivals, South Dakota State and now North Dakota, have departed. Meanwhile, the Omaha World-Herald says that Nebraska-Omaha isn't going anywhere, and various reports have the NCC looking to add teams from either the Northern Sun Conference (which used to be UMD's home), the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (teams such as Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan), the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association (Central Missouri State, Pittsburg State, Washburn, etc.), and/or the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (Chadron State, Colorado Mines, Nebraska-Kearney, etc.).
Immediately, a short wish list comes to mind for the NCC. This is not based on any real insider information, but instead is only how the NCC would look if I had free reign to pick the teams. I'd say that an eight-team league is ideal. It would allow for a total of 14 conference games in basketball (home-and-home), and that gives schools plenty of opportunities to boost their schedule strength with non-league games, and seven conference football games, which is a good number, though some might say that eight is preferable.
Anyway, here is a run-through of the teams that I could realistically see joining the NCC.
Winona State, Concordia (St. Paul), Northern State
Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan
Nebraska-Kearney, Chadron State
I don't see anyone out of the MIAA leaving, though I guess nothing can truly be ruled out.
Of this short list, I can see the NCC taking three, maybe four teams (assuming that USD leaves for Division I and everyone else currently in the league stays in the league). I think Winona State is a good fit, but can they fund the jump in scholarships they'll need to be competitive? Concordia is competitive in a lot of sports, but the question with them is the same as Winona. The NSIC teams don't offer as many scholarships as the NCC schools do, and many NSIC schools don't "spend" to the limits allowed by their league. Any of them would have to make quite an investment in scholarship money (and some in facilities, too) to make the jump to the NCC.
I really like the idea of Michigan Tech and/or Northern Michigan moving in, though I'm not sure how much they'd want to. I'm not a huge fan of Chadron State because of how hard it is to get there, but it is a nice school with good facilities. Kearney seems like a decent fit geographically, as well, though I'm not sure how interested they'd be.
These are uncertain times for the NCC. They're probably better off adding teams than they would be in merging with the NSIC, because there are many NSIC schools that would have virtually no chance of being regularly competitive in a league with the five current NCC schools.
Ozzie's mouth has him in hot water again. I'm no fan of Jay Mariotti, but I'm pretty sure I've never thought of calling him a "(bleep)ing fag". And I'm pretty sure that even the biggest Mariotti detractor thinks that is over the line.
I'm not going to get into this too much into this, because I've talked about Ozzie before and, frankly, I'm sick of giving him attention when his baseball team is so damned good - and they're virtually forgotten about because of Guillen's mouth.
But if the White Sox don't suspend Guillen, and thus show no standards of behavior for their employees, baseball needs to step in. If Jay Mariotti (or any other reporter, for that matter) were to take such an insanely personal shot at Guillen, that person would lose their press credential, probably permanently, and there is at least an even-money shot that they would also lose their job. For the Sox to hold non-employees to a specific standard of behavior (as laid out on a press credential), but to turn the other cheek when one of their own people calls a reporter a "(bleep)ing fag" is beyond hypocritical, especially when you consider that Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf was front-and-center when baseball punished then-Reds owner Marge Schott for her racial and ethnic insensitivities. Eventually, Schott was basically forced to give up her ownership of the team.
The old excuses of "Well, he's winning" and "Well, he does have a point" aren't truly valid. Guillen needs to understand that it isn't 1982 anymore. You can't just say what you want in front of a bunch of reporters and expect to get away with it.