Time to Renew Vows with the Summit League

We all know by now that the Big 12 is not expanding. BYU is not going anywhere. It was unlikely anyway that the Cougars would have moved all their sports programs from the West Coast Conference to the Big 12 anyway for a number of reasons.

The dominoes did not fall. The Big 12 is standing pat and so is DU’s primary athletic conference.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Commissioner for the Mountain West Conference sees no need to expand membership as well. “Other than making the league better, there really are no reasons” to be proactive, Craig Thompson said. “We have television and bowl contracts through the next four years, and unless someone definitively adds to our enterprise, there is no reason to add institutions to just get to a larger number.”

The University of Denver, a private university situated a great distance from most other private schools located mostly on the east and west coasts, is out of alternatives. The Summit League is DU’s home. And it hasn’t been bad – DU has still won a string of Directors Cups as a member of the Summit League.

While it may not be an ideal geographical or cultural fit, the Summit League will be the home of the Denver Pioneers for the foreseeable future. Plus, it also appears that the University of North Dakota (yeah, THOSE guys) may be joining the conference, too, as they trim their budget shortfall by reducing travel costs as they’re located in the heart of Summit League country. This is likely to revive simmering Dakotas feuds but not necessarily provide a spike in DU attendance in the short term. However, the bad blood between the school still exists and a beat-down of the Fighting Hawks always feels good.

Still, the Summit League is the perfect conference for DU to grow and develop their basketball programs. DU should be able to compete with any team in the league  with proper coaching and recruiting. DU will always be at a disadvantage with the conference championships when they’re held in Sioux Falls, SD (seriously, why is this still a thing?). Other schools battle the same inequity across the country, though. Think about Iowa State having to play Kansas for the Big 12 championship in Kansas City. Hardly a neutral court.

The next opportunity to potentially join the WCC exists when the WAC conference collapses and Seattle moves to the West Coast Conference, which will probably happen sooner than you think. DU would be the perfect partner to balance membership but only if DU can elevate their basketball resume with improved RPI and attendance. It will likely take Rodney Billups and his staff some time to raise the program profile (while you’re at it, go listen to what he had to say about his progress on today’s BSN Buffs Podcast). In 2018, DU will have a treasure trove of at least five full scholarships to fill and the team can begin to climb the RPI ladder.

So let’s get used to the alphabet soup that is the Summit – IUPUI, IPFW, and ORU. Know your Jackrabbits, Fighting Hawks and Bison. And remember, the Jackrabbits are from Brookings and  Coyotes live in Vermillion – both in South Dakota. Did you know that vermilion (one ‘l’) is also red pigment? Maybe that explains why the University of South Dakota athletic teams wear red. Omaha is always fun to goof on. ‘The Summit’ is kind of a cool name for a conference – it sounds very ambitious. Tom Douple is the commissioner and headquarters are in Elmhurst, Illinois – also home to Keebler, the largest cookie and cracker manufacturer in the world. Did you know that Valparaiso was a former member? Depaul was an associate member, too – for softball.

While it might be fun to develop a bitter rivalry with basketball standard bearer South Dakota State, it is hard not to like them -their fans seem pretty nice and they love basketball. As for North Dakota, while it’s hard to see them traveling here for soccer and tennis and drinking all the beer in Denver, a few local graduates may get permission from their parole officers to attend local games.

Ah, but those IUPUI Jaguars – so easy to hate. If only we can figure out a reason why…

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