By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
From 1924 through 1980, there were only three changes in MIAA school membership.
But in recent years, the directory of league schools has changed practically every year.
”I guess that’s what makes it fun and challenging,” said Dr. Bob Boerigter, conference commissioner.
Just in the last seven years:
• Missouri-Rolla (now Missouri S&T) left the league in 2005 after being a league member for 70 years;
• Fort Hays State joined the league in 2006;
• Nebraska-Omaha came aboard in 2008, only to leave the league just two years later to become a Division I school;
• Also in 2010 Lincoln returned to the league after an 11-year absence;
• And this year Southwest Baptist returned to the football schedule after playing an independent schedule for four years, and the league added four schools – Lindenwood, Northeastern State, Central Oklahoma and Nebraska-Kearney.
This was the biggest expansion since 1989 when Missouri Southern, Pittsburg State, Missouri Western and Washburn came into the MIAA together from the Central States Intercollegiate Conference.
A 15-team league this season has resulted in unbalanced schedules. For example, some schools will play 11 conference games during the football season, and others will play 10. Conference championships will be determined by the loss column, not by winning percentages.
As a result, an 11-0 team and 10-0 team will be declared co-champions, and a 10-1 team and 9-1 team also will be co-champs.
“It’s not fair to penalize a team just because it played one less conference game,” Boerigter said. “We were so far into this in terms of people having filled their schedules, to blow the whole thing up again just didn’t seem like the right thing to do.”
With 15 schools this year, there was little if any discussion about splitting into divisions.
“We have done some divisional scheduling in terms of our pods,” Boerigter said. “Each sport will look somewhat different in terms of that, but it’s one set of standings all the way in every sport.”
More change is on the horizon as Truman State, one of the original schools in 1912, is leaving next year for the Great Lakes Valley Conference. That will leave 14 schools – and no expansion plans in the immediate future.
“We really would like to get to 16,” Boerigter said. “But we did expand our geographical footprint when we moved into Oklahoma, and we’re way out in Kansas and Nebraska and the St. Louis area. Our CEOs have made it pretty clear that if we expand, we’d like it to be within that geographical footprint.
“There’s not a lot of potential there at the moment. There are some Division II schools that play football within there, but they all seem to feel pretty good about their league. So I think for at least the next four years, we’ll be at 14.”