Chicago State Basketball: Why the Western Athletic Conference Is a Bad Move
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago State Cougars will join the Western Athletic Conference on July 1, 2013, according to an announcement last week.
While this is a welcome opportunity for most CSU sports, I don’t feel that this is a good move for the basketball program.
For starters, the Cougars currently play in the Great West Conference, which has seen it’s fair share of turmoil. Two years ago the GWC had seven teams for basketball. Last year they cut down to six teams, and this year there are only five teams remaining.
After the 2011 GWC basketball tournament, the NCAA ruled that unless they can boost the conference to eight teams, they will no longer be allowed to host a tournament.
Aside from CSU, five other schools will also be leaving next summer. Once all of the moves are complete, the Great West will be left with one team, which puts the future of the conference in serious doubt.
Once Chicago State officially joins the WAC, it won’t be a pretty picture either.
That conference will be in rebuilding mode as they will be losing eight of their 10 current teams. Seven of those schools make up their football operations. After the current school year, the WAC will drop football from its list of fielded sports.
They will be without football for the first time in conference history.
When you consider that football is the WAC’s most profitable sport, the conference is sure to take a major financial hit.
The new teams that will join Chicago State in 2013 aren't much to cheer about either.
Texas-Pan American has not had a winning season since 2007-2008. They have had only two winning seasons since 2001-2002. At the moment, they are dead last in the Great West Conference.
Cal-State Bakersfield has only had one winning season since 2006-2007. Grand Canyon University will be moving up from Division-II, and history has taught us that this type of transition is not easy.
New Mexico State and Seattle University will now be the cornerstones for the Western Athletic Conference. So far, Utah Valley looks like the only other competitive team in next year’s WAC. The Wolverines have had seven winning seasons since 2004-2005, at the moment they are just one game below .500. It's not clear if that’s a good or a bad thing but we will soon find out.
Finally, we have Chicago State, an historically bad program with very few winning seasons in its entire history.
It has also gone through one head coach after another. The most successful CSU coach to date has been former Chicago Bull Craig Hodges back in the mid-'90s.
Many consider CSU an eyesore on the landscape of Chicagoland college basketball, which has always had a rich tradition.
Current head coach Tracy Dildy is trying his luck to turn the program into a contender. Last year CSU compiled a miserable 4-26 record. This year, so far, the Cougars are 3-8.
They are already on pace to at least tie last year’s win total. But the main issue here is that going from one fledgling conference to another doesn't make any sense.
It especially doesn't make sense when you’re trying to bring your most profitable sport out of mediocrity and into national prominence.
I understand that the Western Athletic Conference will be the biggest conference they will play in to date. But when you combine the instability of the conference with the struggles of a desperate program, it looks like a no-win situation for all parties involved.
Aside from the business and historical aspects working against them, they will also have to endure a harsh travel schedule. Next year they will be the easternmost school in WAC history. That means that they will be spending a lot of time out west. Not only could it effect the academic side of things, but it will take a mental and physical toll on the players.
I agree that Chicago State needs a change of scenery, but I don’t feel that moving to the WAC is the change they need.
I think that staying in the region would suit them best.
I say that they should either go back to the Summit League, or join either the Horizon League or Missouri Valley Conference.
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