The MIAA conference has added a familiar foe to its conference ranks and that foe is the University of Lincoln Tigers.
Lincoln was a member of the MIAA conference from 1970-1999. Insufficient funds caused them to shut down their football team, which was the main reason why they left the league. Head football coach Jerry Partridge sees both positives and negatives with the addition of Lincoln.
“I was for adding Lincoln, but this kind of puts everything to a screeching halt,” Partridge said. “With an odd number of teams playing football in the MIAA, it’s going to cause byes at odd times.”
Lincoln will begin participating in conference games during the 2010-2011 season. The Institutional Representatives Council, which is made up from members from MIAA schools, voted 32-1 to bring Lincoln to the MIAA. The lone vote against came from Missouri Western Athletic Director Dave Williams.
“Conference expansions are always a complicated issue and you always want to make a good decision,” Williams said. “Geographically it makes sense to add Lincoln, but I feel the MIAA as a whole needs to make sure everything fits with the other concerns of the conference.”
Lincoln University is currently active in ten sports. Their strongest sport would be women’s track and field, where they have won seven Division II national championships. The other sports that they compete in are: men’s and women’s golf, baseball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s track and field, softball and women’s tennis. Lincoln also plans on added volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer, as part of their five-year plan.
Another question is whether or not the Lincoln football team can be competitive in the tough MIAA conference. The Lincoln football team was 2-8 this past season and struggled in many of their games.
A big concern is the scheduling conflicts that are now a problem in the MIAA. Football will now have a ten game conference schedule and with the odd number of teams that means someone will have a bye week each week. Making a non-conference game in the sixth or seventh week of the season could be difficult for an MIAA school. Williams believes this could present an issue.
“Now that we have one rotating bye week, it could cause complications,” Williams said. “One solution is to make Southwest Baptist compete in football again, but then we eliminate non-conference all together.”
Another issue will be in basketball which will have twelve teams. The question is are they going to split the teams into two divisions or are they going to leave everybody in one? Another question is will they continue to play home and home with every team in the conference or will they only play some teams once a year?
Adding Lincoln could make the conference stronger as a whole. Only time will tell if adding Lincoln was the right move by the MIAA.