OPINION: BGSU is one of many showing that MACtion needs to matter more

OPINION: BGSU is one of many showing that MACtion needs to matter more

Steve Iwanek, Sports Content Director

Don’t yell at me BGSU fans when I say this:

I am happy that Toledo won in the NCAA Tournament. 

I am also happy that Ball State earned a win in the first round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament over Belmont.

But more than those two, I am absolutely amazed by the run that BGSU women’s basketball is currently on heading into Wednesday night’s battle with Columbia in the Fab 4 of the WNIT.

Why do I praise all three of these teams? Aren’t I supposed to be BGSU’s representative?

No, I am a fan of the Mid-American Conference, while being the lucky one to cover the Falcons and their historic season. 

Many in the NCAA have not been the kindest towards the MAC over the years when it comes to the at-large bids for the big dance.

As many know already, the winner of each conference tournament in March gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which is exactly what Toledo got in their 73-58 win over BGSU on March 11. 

Sure, it stings for awhile as a fan, but at the end of the day, that Toledo team was special.

Led by the MAC Player of the Year, Quinesha Lockett, as well as the MAC Coach of the Year in Tricia Cullop, the Rockets were able to defeat the Big 12 champion Iowa State Cyclones in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, 80-73. 

And, even after getting blown out by Tennessee in the next round, I do not look at that loss and say, “Oh well, this team just got lucky… that’s why the MAC is what it is.”

Well, let me tell you what the MAC really is.

The MAC is a league that finished with three 25-plus win teams (26 for Ball State, 29 for Toledo, 31 and on-going for BGSU).

The MAC is a league that saw Toledo defeat Iowa State, the Big Ten’s Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor, BGSU defeat the SEC’s Florida Gators, and Ball State defeat the ACC’s Pittsburgh Panthers. 

Sure, the Power Five conferences will have the higher win percentage against teams in conferences like the MAC, but here’s my question to the selection committee:

What matters more to you? Competent mid-major teams that have demonstrated they can compete and win with the top conferences, or money?

Of course, when a team from the Power Five makes the tournament instead of a mid-major, a potentially larger audience shows up with them. 

But to me, as someone who is not just a BGSU fan, but also an Ohio State University fan, the reason I root for OSU is because of family and environmental pressures to support the big brand in our home state.

I did not go to OSU, I am not from Columbus. And yet, I still root for them.

It’s fine; I love the Buckeyes and cheer them on as passionately as BGSU, but there is something different about a team you embody through personal relationships.

The access to get to know these players, coaches, fans and staff here at BG is unique to the journalists all across the country who cover mid-major programs. 

Each game and conversation creates a sense of personal care in the mid-major, which is something that feels “corporate” with the Power Five programs. 

That is no knock on the student-athletes that play in the blue blood programs at all. Those athletes are amazing at what they do, and each program is full of fantastic stories.

But when it comes to corporatized events like the NCAA Tournament, money that Power Five teams have almost always triumphs over competency and stories of historic success like BGSU is on at a “smaller level.”

We can never guarantee that a mid-major will win over a power five, regardless of records, game site, etc. The recruiting advantage are immense, and that will most likely never change.

What I can say is this- teams like BGSU, Ball State and Toledo proved they can compete with some of the best conferences in collegiate athletics. 

And for me, I know that BGSU would struggle to beat the Tennessee’s, the Connecticut’s, the South Carolina’s of women’s basketball. 

But what they and others in the MAC can do is beat Iowa State, Florida, and Pittsburgh. 

You know what that demonstrates? A conference that is exceeding the judgmental standards of the NCAA.

What more can you ask of mid-majors? 

Maybe you can ask a couple more to put on their dancing shoes in the month of March, and just give MACtion a chance.