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Published: Thursday, 4/29/2010

MAC chief ready if leagues realign

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

With the ever increasing likelihood the Big Ten will expand its membership sometime in the next few years, nearly every other conference in college athletics has been put on notice.

The Mid-American Conference is one of those leagues that has started making contingency plans in the event of a massive realignment, according to commissioner Jon Steinbrecher.

As it stands, the MAC has 12 full-time members, plus football-only participant Temple. If the Big Ten were to add one or more institutions, it could result in a trickle-down effect that may result in the MAC being raided by other conferences looking to fill their ranks.

"I don't anticipate losing member institutions," Steinbrecher said in a conference call with reporters. "I guess at the same time, we're prepared as a conference and we have the mechanisms in place to move forward if we need to.

"You never want to lose institutions. I'm sure that would be anyone's desire, ... but we're ready for any contingencies we would face."

Steinbrecher did not go into detail about those contingencies, but it's safe to say the MAC could be in for a loss should the Big Ten expand.

The last time the MAC saw institutions leave was in 2005, when Marshall and football-only member Central Florida moved to Conference USA.

"Certainly, everyone's focused on what's going on with the Big Ten," Steinbrecher said. "Depending on whose stories you read, there could be significant changes across the landscape to little [or no]change. It will be interesting to see.

"One of the things I think conference offices do anytime, and what we've been doing for some time, is you continue to evaluate the landscape and the environment. And I think you're continually asking the question of, 'Are there people out there that are the right fit program[wise] and fit philosophically and would elevate your conference?' "

Bowling Green State University football coach Dave Clawson believes the realignment of conferences across college athletics is inevitable.

"Those conferences are going to do what's in their best interest, and I'm sure at some point it will pull some teams out from other conferences," Clawson said. "I think people have seen this on the horizon for a number of years. I'm sure it will have some impact on us but what exactly that is is anybody's best guess."

Other MAC coaches are more consumed with the day-to-day aspects of their program and don't spend too much time pondering the long-term future of

the conference.

"I'm so worried about making sure that the Rockets get better each and everyday that I haven't paid a whole bunch of attention to it, to be honest with you," University of Toledo football coach Tim Beckman said. "Anytime the landscape of college football changes, it affects each and every one of us. [But] I'm looking each year at creating the best program here in Toledo. If it's in the MAC or wherever it is, we're just going to become the best that we can be."

Count Western Michigan football coach Bill Cubit as one person who is happy with his school's affiliation with the MAC.

"I think the MAC has a little niche about it," Cubit said.

"I've talked to some other coaches from some other conferences, and the talk is how is this going to affect the Big East and the Sun Belt and those people there. Those are the people I think who are really impacted, because of the numbers of those conferences.

"For us, I don't see it being that big of a deal."

Contact Zach Silka at: zsilka@theblade.com

or 419-724-6084.



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