April 24, 2013

Macalester football to join MWC

Macalester won six games last season, matching its best total since pulling football out of the MIAC. Four of them came against D-III opponents and none against Midwest Conference teams.
Photo by Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com

The Midwest Conference has announced that Macalester will join the 11-member group as an affiliate football member beginning in July of 2014.

A traditional multi-sport conference over its 93-year history, the Midwest Conference recently adopted legislation to permit affiliate membership in single sports.

With the addition of Macalester, MWC football will now consist of 12 institutions that will compete in a divisional format. Beloit, Carroll, Lawrence, Macalester, Ripon, and St. Norbert will participate in the North Division while Cornell, Grinnell, Illinois College, Knox, Lake Forest, and Monmouth will play in the South Division.

The MWC has not played divisional football since 1998, following the departure of Coe and Cornell. The conference has been playing a modified round robin schedule with its 11 institutions since the return of Cornell for the 2012 season.

“With the addition of a 12th member for football we are able to develop scheduling models that are flexible while providing the excitement of a final league-wide championship week,” noted MWC Commissioner Chris Graham. “The timing of our partnership with a like-minded institution such as Macalester is mutually beneficial.”

Macalester athletic director Kim Chandler said the choice to get back into conference play was a deliberate one.  “This was an institutional decision and one that was purposeful and measured,” she said.

"While the conference hoped the Macalester football program would return to the MIAC, we understand the new direction they have identified," MIAC commissioner Dan McKane said. "Macalester is committed to remaining a conference member in all other sports that the conference sponsors."

Schedules will consist of two non-conference games, two cross-divisional games, followed by five divisional games. The North and South Division winners will meet in the final championship week of the season to decide who will earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament while all other teams will play their divisional counterpart within the standings.

Macalester pulled its football program out of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2002, citing its difficulty remaining competitive in the conference. It has competed as an independent since that time, although it has had partial scheduling arrangements with the MWC and the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference in the intervening 11 seasons.

The Scots are coming off a 2012 season where they finished 6-4 overall, winning three of its last four contests under head coach Tony Jennison. Jennison enters his sixth season in 2013 and has compiled a 22-26 record. The Scots last faced a Midwest Conference foe in 2011, when it lost to Grinnell 31-6. Grinnell went 4-5 in the MWC that season. The Scots also played Cornell that season, in Cornell’s last year in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Closing the door on returning to the MIAC means the conference may finally be able to address the scheduling concerns that a nine-team league presents. McKane said: "The MIAC has started to engage in preliminary discussions at the Presidential and Athletic Director levels to improve football scheduling, including an examination of the conference moratorium on adding new or affiliate members, but no action is anticipated in the immediate future."

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