Bush league Summit exit engineered by IUPUI

One of the worst and most confusing names in college sports, IUPUI, just developed a new reputation to match as the Jaguars will leave the Summit League with virtually no notice.

It’s totally understandable that teams want to move conferences to improve their situation. However, when IUPUI announced their jump to the Horizon League this morning, only two months before the 2017-18 season starts, it was a gut shot to coaches and players in the Summit League.

For example, DU men’s and women’s soccer were scheduled to play the Jaguars September 23rd and October 20th at CIBER Field. A volleyball match is scheduled at Hamilton Gym for September 22nd and Indy on October 20th. The DU basketball home and away schedules have not been released, but this will create another hole in DU’s athletic calendar.

What a mess.

IUPUI conducted a Facebook streaming video this morning. They are “appreciative of their [19 year] relationship with the Summit League” but are leaving, effective July 1st, 2017. A whopping 3-day notice. Why? According to their chancellor, the Horizon League shares their “core values”.

Values?

The athletic schedules for fall and winter are complete for most Division I programs by now. For example, DU men’s soccer will either leave the IUPUI date open or look to find any suitable program with an open date willing to play them. The risk is a ding to their RPI by desperately scheduling a match with a potentially inferior opponent which may damage a potential at-large NCAA bid at the end of the season. Women’s volleyball, expected to be very strong this year as well, is likely to have the same issue. As for basketball, a 20-win target for an NCAA program is the gold standard. In Rodney Billups’ second year, two fewer games will give the Pioneers much less of a chance to achieve that target and qualify, potentially for a tournament such as the NIT. In basketball, it is extremely difficult if not impossible to schedule non-conference games at this late date.

The following is a snippet of some comments on IUPUI’s video:

Tim Thompson
Tim Thompson · 2:05 Poor decision by IUPUI to give the Summit League such short notice before the start of the season.
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) · The department wasn’t actively seeking a move from The Summit League, but made the decision when this opportunity presented itself. It’s commonplace for universities to keep tabs on the ever-changing landscape of conference realignment. -Sam
Tim Thompson
Tim Thompson · Teams already have set schedules in the Summit League. IUPUI is leaving former conference members high and dry.

 

And partial responsibility has to fall to the Summit League Commissioner Tom Dauple who, despite a million dollar exit penalty clause for member institutions, could not delay this hasty exit. Who knows, the Horizon League may have picked up all or part of the exit tab – they are in an aggressive expansion mode. And, the Summit League’s Fort Wayne is likely included in the next wave. Unfortunately, this departure leaves Denver coaches no time to schedule new opponents and, more importantly, diminishes the stature of an already fragile conference.

To add to the problem, the Summit League, which added North Dakota for next year, will be back to having an odd number of teams.

But the source of the damage is clear – IUPUI. Their decision to leave two months before the fall athletic season starts was the very definition of bush league. They know the difficulty of changing schedules this late in the summer yet, they are making the jump with little or no regard for their peer schools. If they gave a more customary one-year notice, it would have been a seamless transition when North Dakota moved to the conference and they could have exited gracefully. Instead, they are more focused on satisfying their new league’s needs and filling the hole left in the Horizon Conference with the exit of Valparaiso.

If the Summit reacts and does the same thing by poaching another program to fill this void on short notice, it will reflect equally poorly on the Summit League.  Could you imagine a member from the premier NCHC leaving the league in August? Unthinkable. Or a Big East lacrosse member giving notice in December? Never. Or a big 12 gymnastics program giving members a 60-day notice before the start of the season? You get the point.

In the end, the Summit will go on. Denver will continue to build rivalries with the likes of Omaha and build on an already great one with North Dakota. But this is simply a sad situation that reflects poorly on the Summit League and even worse upon the integrity and “values” of IUPUI.