Morning Run — MAAC Expansion
My take: The MAAC has certainly made itself a player in realignment. Commissioner Rich Ensor always wanted to be aggressive after Loyola announced it was leaving. He's found two ready-made replacements in Monmouth and Quinnipiac. Both fit the geographic, academic and athletic profile of the league. Monmouth — which the MAAC had been batting its eye lashes at for some time now — has a first-rate facility (the $57 million MAC) and is a natural rival to both Rider (former foes in the NEC) and St. Peter's in New Jersey. Quinnipiac provides a rival to Fairfield in Connecticut. Wagner, on Staten Island, also fits the mold and Bryant — very much the darkhorse — is in Rhode Island, a market the league is yet to tap. All four schools compete in the Northeast Conference. A move to the MAAC would leave that league in a perilous position.
It will be interesting to see how many schools the presidents choose to add Friday and when those schools join the league. The MAAC hasn't expanded since adding Rider and Marist in 1997. Going up to 12 teams creates a scheduling headache. It's tough to get 22 conference games (home and away) into a schedule. There's been chatter that the league could split into two divisions (six in each), play home/away and then some crossover, which, of course, is an unbalanced schedule. But that's something that can be hammered out once the expansion is actually approved.
By adding, the league also protects itself should one of the other nine members' eyes start wondering in another direction. In Rider's case, athletic director Don Harnum said before the start of the season that the school was happy in the MAAC and not seeking a move away. Then again, craziness has defined this period of realignment. Just read this; it looks like the seven Big East Catholic schools have finally woke up.
Note this: One of the big winners in MAAC expansion — men's soccer. The division adds two of the NEC's best programs, particularly Monmouth, which has been regularly ranked in the Top 25 and hosted NCAA tournament games. It gives the MAAC instant credibility as a soccer league.
Niagara 75, Hartford 59: Congrats to Joe Mihalich, who won his 250th game with the Purple Eagles.