Ball Talk

Heather Mangan

Brian Kimmes

The Mid-Continent Conference. The answer to our prayers – or is it?

Despite being led to believe that a conference was waiting for us when we first went D-I, it has taken two full seasons to land a conference. The conference we were admitted to, the Mid-Con, is not the greatest conference. It is ranked one of the lower conferences in the country for basketball. The men’s RPI ranking for basketball is 28th out of 31 teams. The women’s RPI is ranked 17th of 31 conference. The RPI judges the strength of a team based on their quality of opponents.

Maybe the poor rankings have contributed to the Mid-Con’s difficulty retaining teams. In the conference’s 25-year history, 34 teams have spent time in the conference as either full or associate members. One has to wonder why the conference has a difficult time maintaining teams. Only two of the founding members are still in the conference, and one of them is leaving next year. A few schools have even left to become independent schools. What is so bad with this conference that teams are always leaving? Maybe the conference isn’t bad and schools use the Mid-Con as a steppingstone to other conferences. Maybe that is what SDSU is doing. We’ll find out over the next few years.

Despite the negatives the Mid-Con has, though, it is great for the SDSU student athletes and students that we have found a conference. Having a mediocre conference is significantly better than not having a conference at all.

Conferences are crucial to college students. Without a conference, a school like SDSU has little chance to make it to an NCAA tournament. The conference also allows our great student athletes to be recognized through various awards. It is important that the athletes have a chance to be acknowledged for their hard work and to play in the postseason.

The greatest advantage for non-athletes will be the consistency of scheduling, specifically basketball. When I first started going to SDSU, the Jackrabbits were part of the North Central Conference. I knew that every year I would see the same schools twice. If we lost, I knew the Jacks would have a chance to get even later in the year or the following year. The schedule had consistency. It made it easier to be a fan.

I grew up a fan of the Minnesota Gophers. The Gophers have been a part of the Big Ten Conference my entire life. I knew that every year I would watch the Gophers play Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, etc. Those were the biggest games of the year.

When your team plays the same schools year after year, you develop an emotional connection to the opposing team. The connection is one of disgust, but it is there. It is infinitely more fun to cheer for your team when it is playing a team you loathe.

The SDSU versus USD games were the biggest of the year. Presently, the games versus NDSU are very big and people get very excited about them, but there are not as many big games as before. Right now, the only game people get excited for is the NDSU game. Before, when we were in the NCC, all the conference games were big. The NDSU, UND and USD games were all packed. Fans came out to the games not only to cheer against the despised rivals, but also because those games meant something-they were conference games. We needed to win those games to win the conference. They were the most intense games of the year. During the early part of the season, the non-conference schedule, the games did not carry the same level of excitement.

With the exception of football, and then wrestling and swimming, every single game has been a non-conference game during the past two years. As a fan, something has been missing. The level of excitement and energy has not been the same. Some games have been very exciting, but by and large, the games have lost something the past two years.

Next year, we, the fans, get a conference again. We get to see the same schools year after year. We get see meaningful games again. We get to express more than our support for the Jacks; we get to express our disgust for their opponents. We will again have a chance to detest a team.

It will take time to develop the strong feelings of dislike. It cannot be expected that students and fans will automatically have a disdain for the other schools. It takes time to build a healthy hatred of another university. Next year, we start.

#1.883398:2207854054.jpg:ball_talk.jpg:Brian Kimmes, Ball Talk: