It's never going to end. We might try to fight it, we may try to ignore it, but every year it's going to come back. I'm talking, of course, about the endless debate of what a "mid-major" is and what one isn't. Within the past few weeks, we've had weigh-ins here
and on countless blogs.
What all of these explanations lack -- and this is important -- is that they're all painfully complicated and long-winded, and each has some sort of complicated Rube Goldberg scale of three and sometimes four (!) levels and designations. This may be college, and everyone's all smart and stuff, but it's still basketball
-- all of these redrawn maps fail the important 35-second clock test. (Honnnnk!) They also use vague, author-defined conceptions of "expectations," "performance" or "prestige." Give me a break.
We have our position on this, and it's been a clear and constantly repeated one for years now. College basketball is about money first and foremost, and there are haves, and have-lesses. Don't think budgets matter? Tell it to a school that's had its coach hired away for double his previous salary, or a program that was drubbed in the recruiting game by a bigger school with more money to burn and a name that you can find on the front of sweatshirts at Modell's. Competitive balance has long been a major issue in professional sports -- you don't expect the small-market Rays to hang with the big-bucks Yankees, do you? -- and the NCAA will never, ever have a salary cap or basement.
Here at The Mid-Majority, we are instituting the simple, clear answer that has so far been lacking. There's a red line at $20 million (a college hoops Mendoza line, if you will), and any conferences with a higher average athletic budget should have all the resources they need with which to recruit top players and hire top coaches and buy wins. Can't win with all that dough? Tough luck. Any conference below the line is performing small miracles if they can even compete on the same court as the six "power" and two "money" leagues, and this site's primary focus has been celebrating those victories for the great moments they are.
(These are all figures from the U.S. Department of Postsecondary Education, for the reporting year 2006-07.)
|Conference||Avg. Athletic Budget (2006-07)|
You can call any program whatever you want, I don't care what your definitions are; I'm done with that argument. But if you're above The Line, I won't talk about you until when you get beat. If you're below The Line, I'll cover you -- like it or not. This will be revisited every summer when the new figures come out and the conferences fall above or below The Line, and we'll plan our coverage accordingly. And in the big picture, of course, whether I talk about your favorite conference or not, or attend its games, is irrelevant.
You still think there's competitive balance in college basketball? You think this is a "democracy?" Sure, maybe one ruled by Reaganomics. In non-conference play this season, when teams from below The Line have played teams from above it, teams above won 91 percent of the time
. We tracked that in our Monday Boubacars before the calendar year turned over.
The gap is real. Pretending it doesn't exist doesn't mean there isn't one.
Hey, look, I don't like the term "mid-major" either, but it's the term we inherited from previous generations. Do you have a better label for smaller conferences with smaller schools? Let's hear it. It had better be catchier and more descriptive than "non-major" (you thought "mid" was demeaning), "small college" (which could also include Division II) or "low major" (a term we never use around here anyway). Until we come up with a better tag for schools in conferences that spend pennies on the dollar on athletics compared to the big boys, this ridiculous "debate" is never going to end.