Tradition • Character • Service

Tradition • Character • Service

Friday, August 29, 2008 Tony Nicolette's Weekly Column

Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
August 26th, 2008

Ahh, yet another season is upon us. It's hard to believe that Spring Ball ended just four short months ago. Well, now we're all in for the real thing and we've probably all been chomping at the bit for longer than we care to think about. So, let's get right to it!

New Region Alignment

With the North Central Conference (NCC) disbanding, the NCAA shifted things around a bit. In order to maintain a certain "balance" within the Northwest Region, the RMAC joins the GLIAC and the NSIC. While that seems great for us here in the Northwest, the NCAA proceeded to create a complete mess of its other three Regions - especially in the Northeast and Southwest (be sure to read Bob Eblen's National Columns for more insight into that). Nevertheless, the GLIAC now finds itself as the undisputed "power" conference within the Northwest Region. In previous years, there had always been a perceived gap between the GLIAC and the NCC. While that perception certainly could have been argued a couple of different ways (and frankly doesn't matter any longer), most would not consider the Northern Sun or the Rocky Mountain conferences to be quite on par with the GLIAC - whether comparing the top-tier teams, or the overall depth of the leagues.

For a bit of reference, some of the more recognizable NSIC teams are Winona State, Bemidji State, and Minnesota-Duluth. The conference is made up of teams from the upper Great Plains (Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas), and includes a few of the remnants of the NCC.

Some names from the RMAC include Chadron State, Mesa State, and Adams State. These are primarily teams from the Rocky Mountain geography (go figure - Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico), and they move from the Southwest Region into the Northwest.

In simplest terms, the Region basically exchanged one conference for another. The NCC disbanded with North Dakota and South Dakota moving to Division I and Nebraska-Omaha joining the MIAA. The RMAC steps in, but to this point certainly does not possess the rich football tradition that the NCC did. While Chadron State and Mesa State both made the playoffs last year, they both face significant challenges this year that make returns to last year's form anything but guaranteed (peek into Allan Bryning's RMAC column for more details).

While both conferences have some teams that are expected to make some noise later in the season, most don't associate their schedules as possessing the week-in/week-out grind of the GLIAC. As you've certainly heard from me and the coaches before, the GLIAC is pitfall-laden and there are rarely any "gimmes". Add to that the fact that neither of those conferences fund their programs with scholarships to the same level as most GLIAC members, and I won't be the least bit surprised to see two GLIAC teams playing for the Regional Championship over Thanksgiving Weekend.

New Conference Alignment

Gannon and Mercyhurst go from the easternmost schools in their old conference (the GLIAC), to the westernmost schools (well, darn close anyway) in their new conference: the PSAC. I stated last year that I think both schools have the chance to fair a bit better on a weekly basis this year, as the top-to-bottom depth of the PSAC falls short of that in the GLIAC.

Getting us back to an even number of teams playing football in the GLIAC is the addition of Tiffin University of Tiffin, Ohio. The Dragons have spent the past few seasons playing predominantly as an independent. They were members of the GLFC, but the NCAA presently does not recognize that group as a conference in football due to an insufficient number of members.

While Tiffin has played a few GLIAC teams (with some success) in recent years, chances are they'll likely find the sledding a bit tougher when facing this caliber of team on a weekly basis. We'll talk more about that in a bit. For now, a hearty welcome to the Dragons into the GLIAC Family.

Full Column (8/26/08)
Clicking this link later in the season will take you to Tony's most recent column, as pieces are not archived.

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