This is an unusual post. But then again, this is also my 500th post.
If you recall, when I started this blog last summer, the first thing I wrote about was the beginning of the end for the Big 12 conference. It was announced that Texas and Oklahoma were jumping to the lucrative SEC, and I incorrectly believed that the Big 12 was on the edge of dissolving. While clearly the conference didn’t dissolve, the departure of Texas and OU kicked off perhaps what will be the largest conference realignment in NCAA history. Not only will schools face different rivals in the near future, a few Division II teams will be moving up to fill in vacancies left by departing DI schools for greener pastures.
So to mark this milestone, I will be making the argument for a move that will perhaps be one of the final steps in this massive realignment: Pittsburg State University to NCAA Division I.
I mean, why the hell not, right? Plus the Pitt State Gorilla was one of Mike Leach’s (RIP) favorite mascots and the only gorilla…as far as I know…in NCAA sports.
Now if I ever do research for this blog, it’s only the bare minimum. So keep that in mind.
A little bit about the school: Pitt State is located in Pittsburg, Kansas in the southeastern end of the state. It’s football program currently has the most wins than any other school in DII. Currently, they play in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) and their biggest rival are the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats.
At first glance, this university appears to be in the middle of nowhere, but it actually sits just outside of the Joplin MO-Miami, OK metro area with a population just under 200,000 people. And to the south sits the Northwest Arkansas region with a population over 500,000. If I had to guess, a large portion of the alumni base live in these two areas. Additionally, the state of Kansas has only two DI football schools: the Kansas Jayhawks and the Kansas State Wildcats (Also, to the north and to the west lie Kansas City and Wichita respectively, neither of which sport a DI football program). Neighboring Missouri also sponsors only three DI football programs (this sounds incorrect, so correct me if I’m wrong).
As far as athletic facilities go, at least as far as football is concerned, I’d say that they could compete with many at the FCS level, particularly after the addition of the Plaster Center in 2015. So, again, in FOOTBALL, Pitt State CAN compete.
The problem is that to qualify for NCAA Division I, schools have to sponsor at least seven men and women’s sports each OR six men’s sports and eight women’s. Currently, Pitt State only sponsors six each. Furthermore, while I don’t suppose revenue is a barrier to entry, it’s probably helpful to have an athletic department bring in a good amount of cash. From what shoddy research I did, Pitt State performs quite well for DII, even outperforming some DI FCS schools like Morehead State University in Kentucky, but it falls way short from many other DI programs in equaling their revenue. Again, this isn’t a barrier to entering DI, but it is PROBABLY a barrier to entering a DI conference because a school has to bring something to the table.
Most of this is an easy fix. Schools add sports all of the time. And revenue would probably increase by moving up to DI. But leaving DII and the MIAA would probably annoy many within the fan base.
But money talks. And given Pitt State’s declining enrollment, a jump to a bigger stage might be the solution it’s looking for. Which is why I see Pitt State possibly moving to DI in the near future.