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AAC’s addition of Wichita State makes perfect sense

In this era of mass conference realignment, where everything is being done to chase that almighty football dollar, a remarkably smart move was made involving a non-football sponsoring school.

The American Athletic Conference, a college athletics league created purely out of the interests of football, voted and approved the addition of Wichita State. At first glance, maybe it does not make sense to add a school with no football interest to a league that has massive football interest. After all, the AAC was only created when the non-football schools in the Big East essentially voted to kick them all out.

But upon further review, it makes a ton of sense.

AAC commissioner Michael Aresco said this was not a move to create a situation where the league will be split between football and non-football schools like the old Big East once was. Instead, it is a move to solidify its basketball with a program that has tremendous recent history on the hardwood, while getting up to 12 full-time members.

The United State Naval Academy is an associate member of the AAC for football only, but the Mids are a full member in the Patriot League, which does not sanction football. While the AAC has 12 football members, making them eligible to play a conference championship game, the league only had 11 other full-time members. Their basketball league only had 11 members, a very odd number in terms of scheduling or creating tournaments.

This fixes that. Navy essentially acts in Wichita State’s place as a football program, while the Shockers fill-in with everything else.

Plus, it gives a huge boost to their basketball power. The AAC only had two representatives in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, SMU, which won the AAC Tournament, and Cincinnati, an at-large selection. That reaffirmed that the AAC is not really a power six conference in basketball and that actually there are only five premier conferences. Houston, Central Florida, and Memphis all had records that could be considered worthy of being in the NCAA Tournament, but simply, their strength of schedule and RPI were not good enough.

Wichita State also fixes that problem. The top of the AAC is quite good, but the bottom is dreadful with East Carolina, Tulane, and South Florida. Wichita State gives teams like Houston, Central Florida, SMU, Cincinnati, Memphis, Connecticut, and Temple another quality team to play twice a year.

And perhaps while location might seem like an issue – many of the old Big East’s problems came from the possibility that a school like Providence would have to send their non-revenue sports like Tennis and Swimming and Diving halfway across the country to play teams like SMU – the Wichita State makes geographic sense for the conference. Tulsa, SMU, Houston, Tulane, and Cincinnati all fit geographically in what one would expect a conference to fit in and it won’t disrupt the perfect split East-West football divisions.

For Wichita State, this move also makes perfect sense. The Missouri Valley Conference has always been a highly respected mid-major basketball conference and programs like Indiana State, Southern Illinois, Northern Iowa and Bradley have all made the NCAA Tournament, sometimes even as at-large selections. But the Shockers great 2016-17 campaign earned them a No. 10 seed. Illinois State had a remarkable year but was left out of the tournament completely. The trend is turning away from mid-major at-large bids. If the Shockers didn’t win the MWC, being a No. 10 seed means it would be possible that they had little shot at being an at-large selection.

Their competition will be significantly better in the AAC, and they made the move before they were left behind.

As for the MWC’s next step; the domino effect of the move certainly will be interesting to see, but it is doubtful that the MWC, which lost Creighton to the Big East in 2013, will sit at nine teams. Valparaiso would make a lot of sense to add to the league, but there would be an even further domino effect of which team would replace them in their conference should they league.

But as for the AAC, their move to add a non-football school to secure 12 full-time members and strengthen their basketball league was a slam dunk.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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