We tend to overthink things as human beings. Our brains are wonderful tools, but they can sometimes get in the way of tremendous opportunities.
One of those opportunities could be in the offing for Wichita State if a report Thursday by Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports is accurate. Rothstein reported that there are supporters within the American Athletic Conference who would like to add the Shockers to their league as a no-football member.
WSU would give the AAC 12 basketball-playing schools; Navy is a football-only member of the conference.
Who knows who these supporters are, but let’s presume they’re athletic directors and perhaps even presidents. Rothstein said he heard from four sources that the Shockers have been brought up as potential no-football members at the latest league meetings.
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And why not?
Wichita State is a prime basketball property with one of the country’s elite coaches in Gregg Marshall. OK, maybe we don’t have as many television sets in Wichita as they do in Memphis, Dallas, Houston, Cincinnati, Orlando, Philadelphia, New Orleans and other cities in which American Conference members reside.
But how can it be argued that WSU wouldn’t further enhance the American’s basketball cred? Cincinnati and UConn have combined to win five national championships and Houston and Memphis have each appeared in two national-championship games.
WSU has been a proud member of the Missouri Valley Conference since 1945 and that’s a lot of history, a lot of memories, a lot of good will. But in recent years, Wichita State has dominated the Valley and not just in men’s basketball. With a sports appetite larger than any other MVC school and a budget able to feed that hunger, the Shocker athletic department has zoomed forward.
The level of consternation from some Shocker fans is palpable. They fear a return to the 1990s, when Wichita State couldn’t win a basketball game and was the doormat of the Valley. They think it’s better to dominate a weak league than compete in a stronger one, where more NCAA Tournament bids are handed out.
That’s where the overthinking comes in, and where it’s unnecessary. Bottom line: If the American Athletic Conference is legitimately interested in adding Wichita State’s athletic program to its mix, then you take about 20 seconds to make your decision.
Remember, WSU president John Bardo and athletic director Darron Boatright have been looking at athletic-department options for more than a year. That includes investigating bringing back football and changing conferences.
Football, at least as an American member, would not be an option. But is there really a hankering out there to bring back football? If there is, it’s not one I’m feeling. There has been on-and-off talk about bringing back football since it was dropped in 1986 due to apathy and draining money from the athletic department.
The expenses of restarting football, even in the Bowl Subdivision, are at least a big issue and at most prohibitive.
Besides, WSU basketball is what matters most in Wichita. And by a long shot.
If there’s an opportunity to improve — and leaving the MVC for the American is an obvious improvement — doesn’t Wichita State have to jump?
WSU officials can’t allow themselves to be paralyzed by the Shockers’ history in the Missouri Valley Conference. Of course, changing conferences after more than 70 years is a move that should not be taken lightly, but it’s the right move.
It re-establishes a rivalry with Tulsa and gets the Shockers’ brand into some of America’s largest cities. Hey, I love Carbondale and Terre Haute as much as anybody, but road trips to Orlando, New Orleans and Tampa are a little more attractive.
Besides Tulsa, former MVC members Cincinnati and Houston inhabit the American. And there was a time, in the early 1960s, when the rivalry between Cincy and Wichita State was one of the best in the country.
For those who worry that the American is ripe for being invaded by power-five football conferences, it’s a legitimate concern. But the Big 12 just decided to stay at 10 teams, forgoing the opportunity to add Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, UConn and other American schools.
Are you brains still in worry mode? You’re concerned about increased travel for WSU’s Olympic sports such as volleyball, softball, baseball and track and field?
Well, if Wichita State were to join the American, that conference would likely be split into divisions.
How does this look?
East: Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina, South Florida, Temple; West: Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa, Wichita State.
I can keep bopping you over the head with reasons why this opportunity, if it exists, is a no-brainer. But if you insist on continuing to let your brains get in the way, there’s not much anyone is going to be able to do to convince you that Wichita State in the American is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The voices that whisper against this move are playing games with your heads. Tell them to hush. Tell them the Shockers can flourish in the American. If there’s a chance to do this, tell those voices to shut up.