A New Conference Foe across the Bridge?

St. Scholastica's Student Newspaper
The Cable
Photo credit to wistrans.org

Photo credit to wistrans.org

By Jacob Gallagher

UW-Superior applies to enter the UMAC and plans to leave the WIAC.

The UW-Superior Yellow Jackets sent their application for full membership in the UMAC on Monday April 21. After 100 years of being in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC), University of Wisconsin-Superior feels that the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) is a better fit.

The Yellow Jackets, currently in the WIAC (Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference), lack success in the "major" sports at the conference level. Besides a WIAC title in Hockey in 2011, their most recent conference title was in baseball back in 1966. Baseball also placed 5th in the conference for the last five years, but for the fourteen years prior to that, they either had or tied for the worst record in the conference. Their last basketball title was in 1941, and their football program, which was dropped in 1992, had four titles with the last one being in 1946.

Their lack of athletic success in the WIAC can be attributed to their small size. UW-Superior with enrollment below 2,500 is under half the size of any of the schools in their conference. The second smallest school in the WIAC, UW-River Falls, has an enrollment of 6,819. In the UMAC, UW-Superior would be the third largest school behind Northwestern and St. Scholastica with enrollment about 3,000 and 2,877, respectively.

Another reason to leave the WIAC is travel expenses for UW-Superior. The nearest competitor for UW-Superior in the WIAC is 147 miles away (UW-Stout), and their farthest competitor being 368 miles away (UW-Whitewater), which really add up to travel expenses in a year. However, if UW-Superior joined the UMAC, their trips would range 5 miles to 255 miles, cutting a large amount of travel expenses.

Recruitment would also be much easier with a transfer to the UMAC. About 52 percent of the students come from Minnesota, and about 30 percent from Wisconsin. A transfer to the UMAC would have more athletes playing closer to home, and this would hopefully increase recruitment in the state of Minnesota.

Leaving the WIAC would cause issues in the baseball sector of the conference. Without UW-Superior, the WIAC falls to six teams, which is below the amount of teams required to get an automatic bid in to the NCAA Division III national tournament. With a departure of UW-Superior, the WIAC would have eight member schools, and the UMAC would have nine full members (Ashland and Superior being the only two Wisconsin schools).

The Yellow Jackets have not left the WIAC quite yet. The application was sent to the UMAC, but official vote made by the Council of President is to be made on June 1, 2014. The earliest season UW-Superior could participate in the UMAC would be 2015-2016 due to scheduling issues. If the Yellow Jackets are accepted into the UMAC, St. Scholastica would have a new conference foe across the bridge.