Xavier faces Cincinnati in 2018 Crosstown Shootout
I have blogged continuously since 2008. My current blog, Crucial Baskets, has been active since June 2016. You can find the blog HERE.
Below is an example of one of my earlier posts:
“Chicago State to the WAC is a Good Thing. Will it Last?”
Ever heard of Chicago State University?
For Chicagoans, it may be that school over on 95th & King Drive that a friend or family member goes/went to.
For long-time Summit League fans, this is the school your conference kicked out in 2006. At that time, the athletic department was a compliance nightmare, the president was allegedly spending the school’s money for herself, and the graduation rate was abysmal.
Some fans of bigger schools may even remember this school as the one your men’s or women’s basketball team beat by 40 a couple of November’s or December’s ago.
For the rest of the country, though, you probably haven’t. To most, the name may sound like a generic university from a television sitcom or one of those online colleges that are advertised during the day.
But on Wednesday, December 5th, the Chicago State Cougars may have found themselves inching ever closer to relevance in the college sports scene when they accepted an all-sports invitation into the Western Athletic Conference.
For Chicago State University, this is a big moment in the school’s athletic history. It is a huge step in the school’s quest to rise from its mid-2000s depths. The charge is lead by new AD Dan Schumacher, who arrived at Chicago State in July after six years at Lewis University in nearby Romeoville. According to a Sun Times profile from around the time of his hiring, the first thing he did at CSU was buy the school a ticket machine. From there, his department has moved forward with the addition of men’s and women’s soccer teams, a small TV deal with Lakeshore Public TV, the construction of a new baseball and soccer stadium, and, of course, a deal to be added to the Western Athletic Conference.
Inclusion in the WAC will give Cougar athletes a chance to get into an NCAA Tournament, something they haven’t had for seven seasons. The idea of simply having a shot at the Tournament should do wonders for recruiting.
It also makes the five year-old, 7,000-seat Jones Convocation Center seem less like wasteful spending.
For the WAC, this move keeps the lights on for now. The conference has come a long way from when they started with six schools in 1962. Things went south in 1996 when the 10-team conference added 6 teams. Half of the conference found the arrangement untenable and left the WAC to start their own conference (the Mountain West) in 1999. Since then, it’s been a carousel of schools, most coming and eventually leaving for either the Mountain West or Conference USA. Even four of the five schools they added for the 2012-13 season to cover the losses of other schools are bolting for new conferences. Most of the defections were from schools that have football teams, so the WAC will no longer be sponsoring that sport with only two football schools slated to be left by 2013-14.
So what is a once-proud and stable conference on the verge of collapse to do? Well, you select schools the same way George Clooney and Brad Pitt assembled heist team members in the Ocean’s movie series. The WAC has something to offer (an automatic qualifier spot in the Tournament), the schools have something to offer (the desire to be members, thus keeping the conference alive), and both have the same goal in mind: competitive athletics and relevance.
What outsiders see as a conference of misfit toys may have more potential than most think. For 2014-15, the season after current member Idaho leaves for the Big Sky Conference, the WAC alignment will consist of holdovers New Mexico State and Seattle as well as the new additions of Utah Valley, Grand Canyon, Cal State Bakersfield, Texas-Pan American, and Chicago State. That’s a strong basketball school in New Mexico State, access to the Seattle, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, and Chicago markets, and possible pipelines into Los Angeles, Houston, and San Antonio. If these schools can stay together and develop their athletic programs, this conference could become a viable mid-major conference.
But even though the WAC rebuilt their house, that house is still made of cards. NMSU is still looking to defect from the WAC, as they are looking for an FBS home for their godawful football team. Seattle – a private, West Coast school that doesn’t have a football team – has been looking to get into the West Coast Conference – a conference full of private, West Coast schools that (with the exception of Brigham Young) don’t have football teams – ever since they returned to Division I in 2009 after a 29-year absence. Then there’s the matter of who else the WAC will add. Where will the next school come from? Division I? Division II? Thin air? The WAC carousel continues to spin.
For now, though, Chicago State’s inclusion in the Western Athletic Conference, a conference with a long pedigree of successful schools that will now be including other up-and-coming athletic programs, is a historic and exciting moment for the Cougars. It will be interesting to see what happens next as Chicago State looks to become a major player in mid-major athletics.