Thursday, March 24, 2011

What does St. Cloud do now?


I have long begged, pleaded, with a school, any school, in the state to go division one for basketball, with St. Cloud and Minnesota-Duluth the two primary candidates in my book, Maybe Minnesota State-Mankato. Still, they have remained reluctant to join the ranks of the top division in college sports.
All three schools are division 2 in most sports, like football and basketball, but all are Division 1 hockey teams, because there is no such thing as Division 2 hockey. Over the past decade, the primary competition for these schools has left their football and basketball conference, the old North Central Conference have moved on, starting with Northern Colorado, then North and South Dakota and North and South Dakota State. The three aforementioned schools took it in stride and joined a conference, the Northern Sun, which was populated with smaller schools. Right now, outside of those three schools, the largest foe they have is Winona State, which is half the size of St. Cloud (and a real candidate to move up in basketball, if I had my way). After that, the next largest school has only 5000 students.
In the only 2 years since joining the Northern Sun, St. Cloud State has already considered dropping their football team, due to the financial issues. The athletic department can't possibly b e making as much money without road fans showing up at the stadium or arena.
Now with the news that the Big Ten will be forming a hockey conference, St. Cloud (et al) are going to be losing two of their biggest draws, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Part of the draw for an athlete perhaps going to St. Cloud or Mankato was the opportunity to play against the future NHL talent at Minnesota and Wisconsin. Every other conference, even without the Big Ten schools, will have a major university to play against, from Boston College to Notre Dame to Connecticut. North Dakota is the biggest name in the WCHA now.
St. Cloud, the way I see it, is left with 2 options, though they will likely take a third. First, they could bite the bullet and go Division 1. There will be some growing pains, but eventually, having a more profitable conference affiliation will be good for other sports, especially basketball revenue going towards the hockey program. Second, they could give up and go division three. Suddenly, they will be left without a cash cow in the athletic program, so why force themselves into paying more for their programs when they could, instead, go to a smaller conference with local opponents.
I think, however, that St. Cloud will instead stay where they are, content to languish financially, playing small schools and their other castoff Minnesota state schools in Duluth and Mankato.

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