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Army-Navy, Basketball Rivalries, FCS Playoffs, and Dropping Football: DWT;WT Bonus Edition

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St. Cloud State and Minnesota-Crookston drop football, and we wonder what’s next.

NCAA Football: Army at Navy Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Reflecting on last week’s DWT;WT, it certainly feels odd (or, perhaps, well-timed) that we talked about D-II, D-III, NAIA, and NJCAA bowl games.

This week the news rippled across Minnesota that both the University of Minnesota-Crookston and Saint Cloud State University, D-II members of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference—home to Minnesota State-Mankato, Minnesota-Duluth, Concordia-St. Paul, and mascots you should have heard of—were dropping their football programs. It is a bit of a mercy-killing for the Eagles, in the far northwest of the state—they were 2-64 since 2014. But for Saint Cloud State, where the Huskies have enjoyed mostly winning seasons and a number of playoff bids in the 2010s, it’s a shock.

That, compounded with cuts like those to the Minnesota-Duluth faculty and staff budgets or the UW-Stevens Point reorganization, continue to raise questions about the future and efficacy of small-school football and education—D-II Humboldt State made a similar decision in 2018, Nebraska-Omaha’s Trev Alberts made the controversial decision to cut football while jumping to D-I in 2010, Jacksonville University dropped the sport in a surprise December announcement, and even D-I institutions like Eastern Michigan which have cut other sports to keep football viable. Earlier this fall, Grinnell College (IA) canceled the rest of its football season amid a lack of warm bodies to keep the team alive.

Where do we go from here?

For all the dropped-football stories, there are, of course, others. Dixie State, LIU, Merrimack, and North Alabama are moving into D-I (FCS) football. Sioux Falls-area private school Augustana has made no secret of its plans to move toward D-I athletics, and recently-evicted D-III MIAC school St. Thomas (MN) has a Summit League invite in its back pocket—and could fill the spot in the non-scholarship Pioneer League vacated by Jacksonville.

But comparing Augustana and St. Thomas to St. Cloud and Crookston invites a natural conversation of haves and have-nots, private universities seeking to expand their legitimacy as their regional public school counterparts decline.

My own motivations for this are, of course, selfish—I want one (any!) of these universities to employ me as a regular, full-time professor to teach their students history and politics and things of a liberal arts nature. So I’ve got my own problems.

Their stories, however—passing in parallel, one side less subject to the shifting winds and whims of state government and student enrollment—invite interesting conversations about modern universities, athletics, and enrollment. These are discussions well beyond my pay grade, but they’re questions that—if my students are to be believed—the current generation of administrators seems hardly better-equipped to answer.

I raised this topic yesterday to my students, aged 17-24 and attending a regional—and semi-rural or at least exurban—university. It was met with shrugs, with conversations about the relevance of football when a hockey team is right there, of scholarships and Title IX and how many hoped to get their generals done and transfer to a “real” institution.

Two students’ comments, though, stuck with me. One, who hopes to teach social studies “at a small-town high school” somewhere nearby, wondered if there would be a rural school that could pay her enough to stay and feared she would fall behind someone in the Twin Cities who had “more access” to better schools to student-teach at. Another, a high school senior, opined that “it doesn’t feel like they actually care about us, only their own jobs.” I couldn’t argue with either.

Perhaps budgets will straighten out, enrollments will stabilize, and one of those programs will pull a UAB-esque rise from the ashes. More likely, though, oddities like the Traveling Trainer’s Kit and the Red River Valley Showdown will fade into the ether as regional public schools search for the next big thing—whether eSports or STEM careers or consolidation.

But it’s never worth forgetting the students they leave behind.

Thursday

Don’t Watch This

{NFL} New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens [7:20pm, FOX/NFL]

Watch That

{CBB} Iowa Hawkeyes at Iowa State Cyclones

7pm | ESPN2

Here it is, the best in-state non-conference basketball rivalries in the Big Ten, ranked:

  1. Iowa-Iowa State
  2. Marquette-wisconsin
  3. Nebraska-Creighton
  4. Indiana-Purdue-Notre Dame-Butler (Crossroads Classic), which needs to feature a fight at some point or risk just being known for “good basketball” or something lame
  5. Seton Hall-Rutgers, complete with trophy!
  6. Northwestern-DePaul: Give us the Mayor’s Key, you cowards!
  7. Ohio State-Cincinnati, for pure pettiness
  8. Michigan State-Oakland, for pure sweater-ness
  9. Minnesota-Winona State: Play the Warriors again, you cowards

Friday

Don’t Watch This

Austin Peay Governors at #5 Montana State Bobcats [7pm, ESPN3]
{CBB} Nebraska Cornhuskers at Indiana Hoosiers [7pm, BTN]
{CBB} #24 Colorado Buffaloes at Colorado State Rams [7pm, CBSSN]

Watch That

Northern Iowa Panthers at #2 James Madison Dukes

6pm | ESPN2

#6 Montana Grizzlies at #3 Weber State Wildcats

9pm | ESPN2

I realize Minnesota has played Winona in exhibitions since; please do not at me.

This entire edition of DWT;WT, more or less, is centered on the idea that there’s more football than just Army-Navy this weekend! Some of it might even be good! And you can watch two of them on ESPN2 on Friday night. Really, let this serve as the icebreaker when you’re having a Christmas party for a bunch of your wife’s high school friends and you want something to just be on the TV and the local basketball team is boring as hell and you don’t want what else to do.

Oh wait, fantastic. Steve’s “not a big sports guy.” Time to grab an ale and make awkward conversation.

Saturday Morning

Don’t Watch This

North Central Whogivesashits at Muhlenberg Mules, Probably [11am, ESPN, D-II semis]
{CBB} Mississippi State Bulldogs at Kansas State Wildcats [10:30am, ESPNU]
{CBB} #16 Michigan State Spartans at Oakland Golden Grizzlies [11am, ESPN2]
{CBB} Southern Jaguars at #18 Butler Bulldogs [11am, FS1]
{CBB} Syracuse Orange at Georgetown Hoyas [12pm, FOX]
{CBB} Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Arkansas Razorbacks [12:30pm, ESPNU]

Watch That

Illinois State Redbirds at #1 North Dakota State Bison

11am | ESPN

Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks (13-0) at Slippery Rock (13-0)

11:30am | ESPN3 | D-II Semifinals

Southampton vs. West Ham United

11:30am | NBCSN

Odds are, in this morning lineup, that there’s something for everyone I, personally, look forward to West Ham losing at Soton and firing Manuel Pellegrini afterwards, as I snicker at Brits’ insistence on calling it a “sacking”.

I, for my part, will be cutting down a Christmas tree, rushing it home, and decorating the tree and house for a friends’ Christmas party. It will be 10 degrees and windy. My wife will want to discuss the merits of 15 different trees.

A student, responding to my prompt in discussion yesterday to identify “the big issues of the next 10 years,” thought she was being clever and asked where I saw myself in ten years.

I said not divorced. Off to a great start.

Saturday Afternoon

Don’t Watch This

St. John’s Johnnies at Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks [2pm, ESPN3]
West Florida Whocares at Ferris State Whosagoodboys [2:30pm, ESPN3]
{CBB} Alabama Crimson Tide at Penn State Nittany Lions [1pm, BTN]
{CBB} Delaware Blue Hens at #20 Villanova Wildcats [1pm, ESPN2]
{CBB} UIC Flames at DePaul Blue Demons [1pm, FS1]
{CBB} #13 Memphis Tigers at #19 Tennessee Volunteers [2pm, ESPN]
{CBB} UCLA Bruins at Notre Dame Fighting Irish [2pm, ABC]
{CBB} Saint Louis Billikens at #12 Auburn Tigers [3pm, ESPN2]
{CBB} #22 Seton Hall Pirates at Rutgers Scarlet Knights [3pm, BTN]
{CBB} Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at #8 Kentucky Wildcats [4pm, ESPN]
{CBB} College of Charleston Cougars at Richmond Spiders [4pm, NBCSN]
{CBB} Old Dominion Monarchs at Illinois Fighting lllini [5pm, BTN]
{CBB} Oklahoma Sooners at Wichita State Shockers [5pm, ESPN2]

Watch That

Army Black Knights (5-7) vs. #23 Navy Midshipmen (9-2)

2pm | CBS | Navy -10.5 | O/U 40.5
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA

This game is worth it, if just because it leads GoForThree to lose his shit to varying degrees:

Go Army. Beat Navy.

Poll

Choose:

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Army
    (50 votes)
  • 60%
    Navy
    (75 votes)
125 votes total Vote Now

Saturday Evening

Don’t Watch This

{CBB} Stony Brook Seawolves at Providence Friars [7pm, FS1]

Watch That

{VBB} probably #5 Nebraska at #4 wisconsin

5pm | ESPNU | full volleyball bracket

{CBB} Drake Bulldogs at #14 Dayton Flyers

6pm | ESPN+

{VBB} probably #7 Minnesota at #2 Texas

7pm | ESPNU

It’s late and I’m drunk...

Don’t Watch This

{CBB} Saint Mary’s Gaels at California Golden Bears [9:30pm, Pac-12]

Watch That

{CBB} #6 Gonzaga Bulldogs at #15 Arizona Wildcats

9pm | ESPN2

{VBB} probably #11 Penn State at #3 Stanford

9pm | ESPNU

Have a great weekend, everyone.