The last ten years or so have been filled with a nauseating amount of conference realignments. Some were precipitated by schools wanting their football programs to be better positioned to succeed and garner more revenue. To fans, it seems like some schools have jumped around conferences similar to how Frogger hops across the street. This unstable landscape feeds into seemingly constant rumors of schools moving around.
The latest happened this past week when New Mexico State expressed interest in joining the Horizon League. Despite having a very competitive basketball program, the addition of the Aggies would make no sense. The only way their addition would make even the slightest bit of sense is if they joined with another school near them. The best candidate to pair them with is Grand Canyon University, which is in Arizona. Their basketball program recently transitioned to Division 1, and is doing very well under head coach Dan Majerle. They have a beautiful new arena and fills near to capacity for many of their games. Both of those teams play in the fragile Western Athletic Conference (WAC). But even if both of these teams wanted to join, I would still strongly not be in favor of it for the following reasons:
Conference identity: The Horizon League, based in Indianapolis, is a Midwestern league. If geographic outliers were added, it would lose its identity as a Midwestern conference. Since that part of the country tends to be more blue-collar, that identity subset would be in jeopardy too.
Perfect 10: Ten is the ideal number of teams because every team gets to play each other twice in the regular season. People often think expansion is a good thing. But it is not. Even if just two teams were added, having a 22-game regular season is not feasible. I would rather go back to 9 teams, than have 11 or 12. People would also complain about having a harder league schedule in certain seasons because it would be unbalanced if there were more teams. It is ridiculous how some college basketball conferences have 14 or 15 teams, which leads to many teams being unfamiliar with other league opponents. Those conferences, such as Conference USA, Big 10, and Atlantic 10, tend to have extremely weak bottom rung teams.
Two’s Company: Currently, the Horizon League is situated great geographically, as each team can pair with another on conference road trips, and for hosting alternating opponents. The Wisconsin schools, the Michigan schools, and UIC-Valpo go together pretty seamlessly. Then Wright State and NKU, and YSU-CSU make sense, although some of these can be interchangeable for certain trips.
The Horizon League has a storied past, and the future looks bright. It should not dilute its brand and image as one of the premier mid-majors. New teams should only join when teams choose to leave. A heavier bat alone does not lead to more hits. It requires the person swinging it to be stronger and have a quicker motion. There is no reason for the Horizon League to change bats when it is already excelling with what it is using.