Thursday, December 14, 2006

A tale of two D2's 

It was reported yesterday that SCSU will stay in Division II -- and away from any evil mascots -- and seek admission to the NSIC.This is quite different from the representations I got six months ago while teaching economics of sports. There I had some of the athletic department in to visit with the class about the workings of intercollegiate athletics and the NCAA. None of them were head coaches of a program at that time. There was a good discussion, and not much agreement over what to do. One number we heard bandied about was that the cost of moving to Division I (AA for football) would be $3.5-$4 million.

Saigo made the decision Tuesday to apply for NSIC membership, following the recommendation of Kurtz.

Coaches of individual sports were involved minimally in the decision to apply for membership in the Northern Sun.

�We found out about it through different meetings we had, but we didn�t have a lot of input into it that I�m aware of,� St. Cloud State football coach Randy Hedberg said.

But that discussion never happened here on the campus more broadly, as it did at Mankato:

Students, student-athletes, faculty, staff and members of the Mankato community expressed opinions about the University's athletic conference affiliation options at an open forum Dec. 13.

President Richard Davenport led the discussion, and additional information was provided by Vice President for Finance Rick Straka, Special Assistant to the President Dean Trauger and Athletic Director Kevin Buisman.

The discussion focused primarily on two options: Applying to join the Northern Sun Conference (Division II) or moving to Division IAA athletic competition. President Davenport pointed out that applying for Northern Sun membership requires a decision by Jan. 1, adding that acceptance into the league isn't guaranteed if the University decides to apply.

I lucked into meeting a former athletics official of SCSU who was familiar with our move to the North Central Conference back in the early 1980s. The athletic director at the time went to the president and said he wanted to make the move. The president responded that if the AD thought this was a good move he should study it, and the first place he should go to study it would be the faculty and students. What was found then was broad support for the move to the NCC among the faculty and students, and thus it was done.

I have no memory of such a survey being done in the present decision with any on-campus group. I have no basis for understanding why this decision is made. Again, it could be a good one, but from an administration that continually refers to us as a community it appears to have gotten little input from that community. The alumni who support athletics that I know have also told me of frustration in not feeling sufficiently consulted and informed of the process. This is not what is happening at Mankato, and SCSU alums and faculty and staff have good reason to wonder why.

One must also wonder why Mankato's administration represent the cost of moving to D1-AA to be $2 million (a number they say they cannot afford) when the number given here is almost twice that. Yet the demand for football games by power conference teams against non-conference foes -- OK, let's say it: walkovers -- has gone up since the 12th game in the schedule became the rule. Alumni are realistic enough to recognize that a new D1-AA program might have to be the sacrificial lamb against a Big Ten or Big 12 team to gain enough money to pay for the move, at least for awhile. This pays pretty darn well, too.

Do I know if SCSU or Mankato should be in D1 or D2? No, I don't. I only know two things: One, the tradeoffs are sufficiently large to warrant investigation as so many other schools have done, and two, only one of the two schools is actually having an open debate of the question. Which school would you rather root for?