I graduated from Missouri State in Springfield, MO. I’m happy with the choice of my final college (also attended Missouri Western State University, and Southeast Missouri State) , but it seems as though the one constant is how much of a joke the football team is. In the last few years the college has expanded its tailgate to on campus on a long stretch in front of the stadium, this was in hopes of getting students to the game. The school made improvements to the stadium and added a whole new section on the opposite sideline.
This picture shows the inaugural game since the improvements, unfortunately, its the only time it has been close to full. On the other hand, the tailgate has blossomed, and turned into a huge Saturday tradition for students and alumni. I personally got a tent last year for homecoming, my girlfriend and I had friends come to town, we grilled, drank adult beverages. It was great time, but once the game started, no one stayed. The people are there, but the on field product doesn’t attract anyone to stay.
So here’s my argument, move the team to a bigger conference and either let it sink or swim. Here are my 3 realistic choices for the conference Missouri State should choose. Also note that Missouri States enrollment is around 24,000 and growing, that is average for all these conferences. These are all very realistic in terms of location and size of university.
Mid-American Conference (MAC)
The MAC features teams from Ohio, New York, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana. Missouri State already competes in the MAC for swimming so there’s a connection here. The conference has been widely known to have solid football teams, so it would instantly force Missouri St. to improve. The most realistic move would be for Southern Illinois University to also leave the Valley and join. Giving them an instant rival and measuring stick for their progress. The issue would definitely be football, Missouri State’s other athletics would have no issue competing right away in the MAC, they all compete and contend against major conference teams. The down side to the MAC would be no built in rivals, which is why I suggest the SIU move.
I would compare this directly to Mizzou going to the SEC. The Sun Belt includes teams from North Carolina, Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas. This conference isn’t as well known for football, except for Appalachian State. Which means it wouldn’t be an immediate rush to get better. MO St, would also be one of the largest schools in the conference in terms of enrollment. The biggest key is that they would have an instant built in rival, Arkansas State. The Bears play the Red Wolves in almost every other sport, besides football. The Bears defeated the Red Wolves 2 games to 1 in their baseball season series last year and multiple other sports play teams from this conference, more so than MAC teams, so this goes back to football being the only issue. Both teams from Arkansas would serve as rivals and opening Texas teams to the schedule would help with recruiting. There’s really no downsides to joining the Sun Belt, they have a good TV contract and good rivals, which makes for a more passionate fan base.
American Athletic Conference (The American)
This one may be a stretch, but I personally don’t think it is, for one reason. That reason is Wichita State, a former huge rival for the Bears before they moved. The AAC taking Wichita St makes its extremely realistic they take Missouri State at some point. The Shockers don’t have football, but the rivalry they built in every other sport was cant miss. In terms of enrollment, Missouri State is middle of the line, so that’s not an issue. They feature teams from all over; Florida, Ohio, Connecticut, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Kansas. The biggest issue is that the football team would have a long ways to go with established programs like Central Florida and Cincinnati, just to name a few. Other than basketball and baseball, the other major sports would also see a learning curve, even basketball wouldn’t have instant success compared to the Shockers. Wichita State was brought in as a basketball school primarily, because of the strong basketball history of teams in the conference. If Missouri State wanted to jump in head first this would be a great choice.