by Alex Smith | MCLA.us
[Please remember that these are only my opinions and imaginings and are in no way affiliated with actual MCLA plans or proposals. That said, it would be pretty cool.]
A radical change on the West Coast of the MCLA is possible – and it centers around one of the biggest collegiate conferences in the country. The Pac-12 is ripe for lacrosse opportunities, but its member teams are spread around the MCLA in the SLC, WCLL, and PNCLL.
What if we imagined a theoretical Pac-12 lacrosse conference within the MCLA? What would that would mean for the rest of the conferences?
In my opinion, the end result will create a better overall product for the MCLA by grouping similar universities together. More and better rivalries will come out of this and the chances of universities banding behind their lacrosse programs improve.
Rivals + Buddies = Frenemies?
First, let’s discuss one of the key components to this realignment – the rivalry pair.
Rivalry pairs are geographically connected teams in the same conference that will work together on scheduling so that home and away weekends match up. They will also have their biggest game of the year against each other.
A couple of natural rivals will be displaced via their conference realignment, but do not fear! There are ways to mitigate that through smart scheduling.
Let’s examine what the MCLA’s Pac-12 might look like if it came to fruition. Teams are listed in their rivalry pairs.
- Washington and Washington State
- Oregon and Oregon State
- Stanford and California
- Colorado and Utah
- Arizona and Arizona State
- USC and UCLA
From a strictly lacrosse perspective, the conference ends up having a nice balance of traditional powers, up and comers, and typically back of the pack programs. With the natural rivalries that come from geography, that gives us three pairs of teams in each division.
Using the Pac-12 north as an example, every pair will both host and travel to another pair each season for four in-conference games over two weekends. So, UW/WSU will travel to UO/OSU while hosting Stan/Cal. Stan/Cal will host UO and OSU while traveling to UW/WSU. And UO/OSU will host UW/WSU and travel to Stanford/Cal. This will alternate every year so that teams are getting equal home and away contests and visiting each university in their division.
Add one game against each other every year and you are left with a five-game conference slate with either two or three home and away games over the course of three weekends every year. The rest of the season can be used for OOC games, some of which are now actually geographically closer than they might have been before.
What do the other leagues look like?
Making a drastic change like this would have wide-reaching impacts on every other school in the PNCLL, RMLC, SLC and WCLL. So, let’s take a quick look at how those conferences might reconfigure if the Pac-12 teams formed their own conference.
The WCLL is basically unchanged since they lose only Cal and Stanford. With a six team conference, they keep their automatic qualifier and free up some out-of-conference weekends to boost their resumes, including some of the aforementioned local contests that would still be available to them.
- Cal Poly
- Chico State
- Santa Clara
- Sonoma State
The RMLC would see a significant shake-up due to the loss of Colorado and Utah, but the addition of several other schools would group together universities that are relatively like-minded and similarly sized, creating the possibility for better overall rivalries. Like the Pac-12, these teams are listed in pairs that would represent their rival and travel partner. The necessity to pull up one of Wyoming/UNC/Metro State trio into Division I to give Colorado State a rival is imperative, and given the enrollment of those universities, might actually be the better fit anyway.
With the following alignment, the RMLC’s footprint widens a bit to include Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado, and in my opinion, becomes an extremely competitive and fun conference right away.
Imagine a conference with Brigham Young, Colorado State, Grand Canyon, Utah Valley and Boise State competing for four playoff spots this year. That’s pretty good stuff.
The downside to this conference will be the travel component, but that’s always been the issue in the spread-out Rocky Mountain region.
- BYU and Utah Valley
- Utah State and Boise State
- Grand Canyon and UNLV
- CSU and Wyoming/UNC/Metro State
Again, the SLC doesn’t see a whole lot of change in terms of new teams coming in, but they did lose quite a bit with USC/UCLA/Arizona/ASU going to the Pac-12 and GCU/UNLV headed to the new RMLC. They will still have travel pairs if they wish to make scheduling a little easier. The hope would be that one of UCSD/USD/Concordia trio would like to make the jump to Division I to keep the AQ. With the exception of SDSU, these schools fit together well and share rivalries in other sports.
- San Diego State
- Loyola Marymount
- UC Santa Barbara
What about Simon Fraser, Idaho and Montana? And the PNCLL as a whole?
We are left with a couple of outsiders in terms of teams without a home. Simon Fraser, Idaho, and Montana are left in a lurch with the elimination of the PNCLL. Simon Fraser might be best served by being an independent team anyway or possibly joining the PNCLL Division II given their unique travel situation. Idaho and Montana may be able to convince the WCLL to expand (as may SFU). This is a sticky point that makes things a little difficult, but a few eggs may have to crack to make the omelet.
The PNCLL will still be able to hang their hats on their extremely strong Division II. This conference has been traditionally dominated by Oregon and Simon Fraser anyway. Let’s shake some things up.
What about geographical rivalry games? You can’t just eliminate those!
Colorado and Colorado State have existed in different conferences since always in other sports. So have Chapman and Arizona State. And Grand Canyon and Arizona. These teams still find a way to play each other every year. In fact, despite the fact that some teams in the Pac-12 will be forced to travel more for their conference games, they will end up saving some money on their non-conference games by having local rivals.
Stanford and/or Cal can pick up Dominican or Sonoma or Chico on a Wednesday. ASU and UofA can get GCU. CSU and CU can still have the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Showdown on another weekend. None of that needs to change.
Who would the commissioner of this dream conference be?
I know of a handsome and eligible person right now as a matter of fact.
So, Pac-12 South Teams are going to have to travel eight hours when they play the Utah/Colorado pair? And what
about the conference tournament’s logistics? You must not know very much about budgets.
Yeah, so the realignment isn’t perfect.
Let’s move on to the games.
Last Week: 8-0
GCU 12, ASU 9 (GCU 17, ASU 12)
Arizona 8, SDSU 6 (Arizona 7, SDSU 5)
ASU 10, SDSU 5 (ASU 10, SDSU 2)
Oregon 13, Boise 11 (Oregon 17, Boise 9)
Oregon State 8, Boise 7 (OSU 8, Boise 4)
Colorado State 8, Utah Valley 5 (CSU 9, UVU 8)
Colorado 14, UVU 10 (CU 19, UVU 7)
Boston College 7, UCONN 6 (BC 9, UCONN 4)
Battle in Baltimore
There's a really exciting weekend set in Baltimore as Boston College, Florida State and Virginia Tech all meet for some absolutely crucial out of conference games. Between the three of them, they are 26-5 heading into the weekend. It’s hard to say which team needs this weekend more because they are all right in the same wheelhouse of being extremely solid teams who have not completely proven themselves yet.
I’ve been high on FSU all season, and now they will have the opportunity to perhaps move into the top 10 with a sweep. Boston College has quietly been going about its business and look as strong as ever. The Eagles have the most impressive resume of any of the teams in Maryland. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is riding a five-game winning streak into the contests, as well.
It’s a great contrast in styles as BC has been scoring around 11 goals a game, FSU is well up into the teens and Virginia Tech is keeping all games in single digits.
This feels like one of those weekends where everyone goes 1-1. My personal rankings have the Eagles at No. 12, Florida State at No. 13 and Virginia Tech at No. 19. I could easily miss every one of these picks and not be surprised. A lot of my choices hinge on the order of the games. I think playing back-to-back will hurt both BC and Tech in their second games.
Boston College 14, Florida State 13
Virginia Tech 9, Boston College 8
Florida State 15, Virginia Tech 10
RMLC Rivals Clash
I had to grit my teeth as an MCLA neophyte proclaimed Grand Canyon versus Arizona State as the MCLA’s biggest rivalry on Twitter. The state of Arizona, while extremely impressive, has won exactly one MCLA national championship. Put together the three teams that will be battling this Thursday and Saturday in Boulder and Fort Collins and you have 11.
I have to somewhat arrogantly point out that the CSU/BYU rivalry is the one that put the MCLA on the map back in the early to mid-2000’s. Oh, and by the way, the Buffs and Cougars don’t exactly like each other either.
Putting the past aside, this is going to be a challenging weekend for BYU. The Cougars are going to get two completely different doses of medicine in the up tempo Buffs and the grind-it-out Rams. I see the Cougars and Buffs both being in double digits and then neither CSU or BYU making it to 10. I’ll take BYU in the opener and my Rams in our Hall of Fame Game on Saturday.
BYU 14, CU 12
CSU 9, BYU 6
Who’s the Boss in the WCLL?
I love the Cal Poly/Stanford matchup in Palo Alto. Poly is a deserving No. 3 and Stanford’s 7-2 record includes a one-goal loss to No. 1 Chapman. The Cardinal are 7-0 when scoring double digits and 0-2 when they don’t. Meanwhile, Cal Poly has only allowed double digits once – in the Mustangs' lone loss of the year to Grand Canyon. Close games with Minnesota and Sonoma notwithstanding, the Mustangs are my pick to go on the road and take down the Cardinal.
Cal Poly 10, Stanford 9
A Peach of a Game in SELC Country
Across the country – quite literally as far away from the California as you can get – we get a very rare game in which both teams are undefeated with 10 wins or more. It’s "Clean, Old Fashioned Hate" week in the Peach State as the Bulldogs take on the No. 2 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.Tech has been absolutely cruising of late in a performance reminiscent of the 2002 Auburn Tigers. You have to give them credit for knocking off the teams they are supposed to, but nothing will be guaranteed come May.
Georgia has probably had the quietest 12-0 season you can think of and one look at their schedule tells you why. Not a single top 25 game until this one and (according to Laxpower.com) the 82nd hardest schedule out of 91 Division 1 teams. Tech should come out on top of this one, but rivalry games have a funny way of keeping scores close.
Georgia Tech 11, Georgia 6
A Duel in the Desert
Grand Canyon appears to be waking from its early-season slumber while the Cats have been coming steadily back to the pack. A two-goal win over San Diego State has done nothing to assuage concerns that surfaced in the loss to UNLV last month.Tucson is one of the hardest places to play in the MCLA, so being home will help Arizona. I just don’t see Arizona being able to match GCU’s offensive firepower.
Grand Canyon 15, Arizona 8