Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A rose by any other name is still as sweet

Or conversely, a pile of crap by any other name is still as smelly.

My beloved Valparaiso University ditched the Mid-Continent Conference for the Horizon League last summer, with competition to begin once school resumes in the fall. Valpo was an inaugural founder of the Mid-Con and held the league together as the only school regularly worth a damn in the conference. So after Valpo jumped ship, the Mid-Con sank. Really, it did.

The Mid-Con is no more. In an on-line article titled "Mid-Con Presidents Council Launches Summit Plan" a reader will find four paragraphs later that the league has changed its name to the Summit League. Geographically, eliminating "Mid-Continent" makes sense as schools ranged in location from the midwest to Eastern Asia.

However, what preceded the name change announcement was a vague call to make the Summit League a better place.

The Summit Plan, which places an emphasis on presidential leadership, seeks to advance the league to one of the premier mid-major conferences in the country. It focuses on student-athlete welfare, academic performance, increased home attendance and improving the league’s rating percentage index (RPI) in all sports.

Ok. So previously the Mid-Con didn't want to be one of the "premier mid-major conferences?" And by "premier" the council really means academic excellence leading to improved attendance. I'm not sure that those go hand-in-hand (not looking this up but I think Ohio State has graduated 1 player in the last 7 years), but I suppose it's a noble goal worth striving for.

Just how does this happen?

The league plans to recognize the academic achievements of its student-athletes at every opportunity, while seeking to improve the Academic Progress Report (APR) scores of each team.

If I were a Summit League athlete, believe you me, I would be motivated at the appearance of my name on a not-so-widely-read press release. As for raising the "APR," I'm pretty sure that phrasing just means that there will be a league wide commitment to cheating.

The marketing efforts will be focused on increasing the home attendance, which helps support the student-athletes and provides additional exposure.

I suppose that there are even going to be any "marketing efforts" at all is an improvement from the devoid publicity the league generated for itself over the last decade. We can only hope that these efforts aren't limited to a free Summit League banner to be hung in each home gymnasium, though I'm sure that's probably what it will amount to.

In addition, the Summit Plan will include a review of staffing, budgeting and scheduling by each member institution to be conducted with the goal of improving the RPI in all conference sports.

How about reviewing the staffing, budgeting, and scheduling of league offices instead of the individual schools? I will forever contend that "staffing" would be solved by hiring Tony Hamilton, former Mid-Con guru of everything. He could be commissioner, PR man, and bouncer.

"Budgeting" would be considerably easier if anyone in authority had some goal of geographic improvement to the conference. The odd number of teams led to some crazy travel patterns such as the ever enjoyable flights from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Kansas City, Missouri, and finally Cedar City, Utah. As is, Valpo left citing these concerns and will now take much cheaper and quicker bus trips to Chicago and Cleveland.

But it was the fourth paragraph the dropped the bombshell of a new league name. This critical paragraph also boasted of a new logo, image, and website. The logo is simplistic, doing away with the awful looking red and blue rainbow and introducing a sleek mountain peek.

The logo itself was designed by Nina Schmidt, a graphic designer at South Dakota State University.

I'm glad that the league is already looking at its own budget and opting to go with student work rather than bother with any type of professional search. The best part, though, is that Nina Schmidt from South Dakota State isn't even in the conference yet. The school will be June 1st, but I like that it took a new school to bother coming up with anything. Had I have known the logo search would have gone this direction, I would have contacted my sister for the job. Dani could have done this as she meets the qualifications of a.) student graphic designer b.) improve the current garbage logo and c.) not in the conference. In would boost her resume and perhaps increase her grades, which as we now know, is what the Summit League is all about.

It's the website that has me most excited. Instead of the easy to find, those press releases displaying awesome grades can be found at A dot org domain! I love it.

So all this happened at a press conference that by most accounts was attended by the three guys in the picture and one photographer. What a big day for the Mid-er- Summit League!


JR said...

Begin rant.

I've thought about this for a while and there are many points that come to mind.

1. The Summit League. Sure it sounds stupid, but so what? Is the "Horizon League" any better, perhaps sexier sounding because it has an extra syllable? I'll grant that the name isn't delicious, but the old one was a misnomer and it gives them a super lame reach to tie it in with their academic goals. I think it will be accepted just as "Conference USA" was accepted despite sounding really unfocused and lame.

2. How does it go about accomplishing the goal of better geography? I agree it's lying in the bed it made when it came to complex travel schedules and seemingly no broad plan to keep things confined in a relatively negotiable area of the country (a problem surely exacerbated by a constant revolving door of leadership), but I'm not sure how easy it is to simply ask schools to leave. It's been the Statue of Liberty Poem of college conferences, inviting the poor, weary, tired, and bad to attend their conference borders. Long term, that was a bad idea, but it's hard to keep your eligibility for postseason and carve your geography exactly how you want it.

3. As for the academic stuff, I'm sure every league proposes academic standards as a goal. It's kind of like a curtsy to the high road powers-that-be.

4. Tony Hamilton for bouncer absolutely has my vote.

5. The good news for Valpo: they got out of this mess. I'm sure the writing was on the wall with the Dakotas entering the fray, thus (as you said) providing scenic trips to all the hot spots in our great country (Tulsa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Shreveport, Kansas City, suburban Detroit, Macomb, various places in Indiana). Kudos to them for being ahead of the curve.

6. They really needed a graphic designer to write out those words and draw some loose geographic shape in the background? I hope they didn't pay much.


lonewolf said...

I'm disappointed that your rant ended after only 6 points. I'm accustomed to your posts going 10.

1.) Summit League is an improvement over Mid-Con. It's dopey but still better. And yes, the extra syallable in "Horizon" does in fact make it the superior conference.

2.) I agree it's a difficult situation. In the later years, the conference has become desparate to hold on to its bid (hello Centenary) and as such loward its geographical/quality standards that go with admission.

3.) "Curtsy" is an appropriate word here.

4.) I wonder where Tony is now. Probably kicking some Southern Utah kid's ass.

5.) I can't say that Valpo was "ahead of the curve" as the appropriate time to skip conferences was probably 5 years ago, but better late than never.

6.) Unrelated to your point, I just want to restate that the conference website will have a .org domain.

Eli said...

Kansas City is a nice place, thank you very much assholes.

lonewolf said...

And I assure you of all the places listed, it would be my top pick with Tulsa always being dead last.