Conference realignment in college football has not been limited to the likes of the Big Ten this season. The Midwest Conference will split into two divisions of six teams after adding Macalester College of St. Paul, Minn. The plan is expected to go into action starting with the 2014 football season.
“There was mutual interest to get something like this done,” Athletic Director Chad Eisele said. “For the Midwest Conference, having 12 teams is much easier for scheduling. It allows us to go to divisions. They are in the [Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference], but are independent for football and needed a league to play in.”
After Cornell College rejoined the Midwest Conference in all sports last season, football was left with an unbalanced schedule. Moving forward, the Midwest Conference will feature a North Division consisting of Macalester and the five Wisconsin schools (Beloit, Lawrence, Ripon, St. Norbert and Carroll) while Knox, Monmouth, Grinnell, Cornell, Lake Forest and Illinois Colleges will make up the South Division.
Though Macalester is over 250 miles away from the next closest conference member, the move will actually improve travel conditions.
“It cuts down on travel. We aren’t going to make as many trips to Wisconsin, and for the Wisconsin schools, it is a lot easier to get to the Twin Cities than down to say Jacksonville, Ill. or Grinnell, Iowa,” Eisele said.
Starting in the 2014 season, Knox will play five games against divisional opponents and three against north division opponents, which will allow them to schedule one additional non-conference game that will likely come against a team closer to home.
“We’re excited to play more regional games for football. It is going to enhance the experience of the student athlete because it will reduce the amount of classes they have to miss [for travel days],” head coach Damon Tomeo said.
According to Tomeo, adding Macalester also provides an opportunity for new recruits to see the program.
“They are very similar to us both athletically and academically. To get into the Minneapolis market will be important for us from a recruiting standpoint,” he said.
While making it clear that additional movement is not on the horizon, Eisele did not completely rule out realignment in the future.
“There is no discussion at all to have [Macalester] move in for any other sports, and there is currently no talk on adding other teams, but that doesn’t mean the door is totally shut,” he said.