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Bring on Division I? Let's think hard before chanting that at Angelo State
March 2016, first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Duke vs. … Angelo State University?
It could happen. This fall ASU will begin an evaluation of whether it should enter Division I of the NCAA. Angelo State would compete for championships against major universities in all sports except football, where it would play in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Good idea? That will be decided formally early next year after the assessment has been completed. Count me among the alumni and fans who will need to be swayed that it would be a wise move.
The best reason to do it might be one that’s mostly out of ASU’s control. Several other Lone Star Conference schools are considering moving from Division II to Division I, and ASU could find the only athletic home it has known for 45 years dissolved or elevated.
Whatever big-time experiences might lie ahead, the bread and butter is the conference that ensures three-fourths of the schedule or more in every sport will be filled. Finding even the remaining games can be difficult, which is why ASU will play a football game at Chadron State, Neb., on Sept. 10.
Another benefit would be a higher caliber of athletes, primarily because the number of scholarships would roughly double. More good athletes would be inclined to attend a Division school that one in D-II.
Maybe some of the football players would be good enough to play later in the NFL, but then that was the case even before ASU became an NCAA member.
If most of the rest of the LSC went D-I as well and remained largely intact, not much else would change in football. Winning a national championship would harder in the FCS, but would come with a prize not substantially better than winning in D-II.
That partially counters the most common positive reaction to a possible move to D-I, that it would be a rise in stature for Angelo State.
Maybe ASU would win the men’s conference basketball championship every 10 years or so and earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. That could set up the scenario that began this column. The Rams becoming part of March Madness would generate four days of terrific excitement and anticipation, which would end with a 40-point loss. But at least it would be on TV.
ASU’s biggest athletic success in recent years has come in women’s sports, with national titles in softball and track and field. There would be none of those in Division I, where the Rambelles’ best hope would be to reach the postseason and get smoked by UCLA or Alabama or Ohio State.
And all that is even before the discussion turns to money. Funding the athletic program probably would triple to $12 million a year. Maybe there are enough wealthy alumni and other supporters who could bridge that gap, and I suppose that commitment would have to be demonstrated before the move.
There would need to be a lot of those people, though, and they would need to be quite wealthy because ASU likely would have to build a football stadium.
Angelo State’s former LSC mates Texas State, Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State are Division I. Do their fans think they are better off playing Nicholls State and Southeastern Louisiana instead of ASU and Abilene Christian and Texas A&M-Kingsville?
Texas State, in San Marcos, is large enough and geographically situated well enough to at least aspire to semi-big time status. The others, not so much.
There’s a lot I don’t know or understand about the prospective move up. Presumably most or all of it will become known during and after the assessment. I look forward to it.
And I hope my rain-on-the-parade take on the situation turns out to be completely off base, that the change would bring new excitement and vitality to the university where I earned a degree 40 years ago and position it for a brighter future. Please convince me, and I promise I will start trash-talking Duke and begin researching the weaknesses of the 14-year-olds the Blue Devils probably already have begun recruiting.
By Jack Cowan, San Angelo Standard Times