Last month’s announcement that Mid-American Conference Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher had signed on for an additional three years atop the league capped a crucial year for the league that saw a beefed up deal with ESPN, a new TV partner in CBS Sports Network, and expanded bowl opportunities among recent highlights. With “MACtion” set to return in just over a month with the new college football season, Cynopsis Sports spoke with Dr. Steinbrecher about the state of the conference, the cost of attendance stipends and what we can expect in the years ahead.
Steinbrecher on the state of the conference: The MAC is in a good place. We’ve had a very stable membership, as we are the only FBS conference that has neither added nor lost a full member in well over a decade. We are growing our revenues as a league, which provides us with more resources to send back to the member institutions for them to use to support the students who participate in collegiate athletics. The things we’ve done as a league, for the past five or six years, in conjunction with our growing media opportunities have lifted this conference from a nice regional brand to a good national brand. Some good things are happening at our member institutions right now.
On TV partnerships: We’ve had the opportunity now to work with ESPN to start to build out the sub-licensing. So we have CBS Sports Network coming aboard this year which will build our national exposure through a different platform. I think you will see some additional sublicensees come aboard over the next couple of weeks as we continue to build out the exposure we have not only in football and basketball but across an array of sports for us.
On cost of attendance: Based on where we are in today’s world where, particularly at the upper end of the spectrum, it is probably the right thing to do. It was done very inelegantly, I think. The legislation that was passed didn’t put in place some of the protections that probably needed to be there, a level of transparency to better govern where institutions are setting their numbers. I think most people are doing it right but you are hearing about some schools that are growing their number rather significantly and that has cause for concern. All of our institutions are on board with it. A couple are phasing it in, but others are doing it right off the bat.
On expansion: Never say never, that’s rule number one. The second rule is that you expand for two reasons: you expand to survive and you expand to get stronger. We are certainly not in survival mode so we would only look at people that make us stronger, and you could probably measure that across a number of metrics: academic profile metrics; on-field performance metrics; does it bring additional value to your TV and marketing rights, etc. etc.,. All of those would be things you would take into consideration.
On Akron cutting sports: They are going through an institutional retrenchment. They are looking at everything across the board and athletics will play a role in that. You never want to see programs drop, but I understand what they are going through. As soon as they announced what they were doing, we immediately provided a blanket waiver of our intra-conference transfer policy so that those young men could transfer within the league if that was of interest. It does not affect their standing in the conference. We go from 12 to 11 teams in baseball, and it doesn’t endanger the sport in the conference. Next week we will be discussing what we will do now.