HOUGHTON - The Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference continues to eye potential expansion, and that was just one of several issues discussed during two days of Presidents Council meetings held for the first time in Houghton Thursday and Friday.
Representatives from all 16 GLIAC institutions, including Walsh and Malone (who officially begin membership on July 1), took part in the meetings, which were hosted by Michigan Tech at the Great Lakes Research Center by virtue of Tech president Glenn Mroz's role as chair of the Presidents Council.
"We hope to reach agreement on some of the issues facing us in terms of the size of the league, fees, a lot of background stuff to make sure the league runs smoothly," Mroz said in an interview before the council's opening dinner at the new Great Lakes Research Center Thursday. "The presidents want to make sure the league is run in a fashion that reflects the dedication to the students."
Several presidents of Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference institutions mingle Thursday at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center during a social hour prior to the opening dinner of two days of annual GLIAC Presidents Council meetings. Expansion was a major topic during the meetings in the council’s first trip to Houghton. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
That dedication to students and financial concerns are major factors in considering expansion, particularly in light of how stretched geographically the GLIAC is.
"There's no secret that our league is very spread out geographically from north to south," said Tech athletic director Suzanne Sanregret, who is chair of the GLIAC Management Council, made up of the league's athletic directors. "Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan are very good members of the GLIAC and have very strong athletic programs. ... We have a good working relationship with the rest of the league."
With Mroz and Sanregret both chairing their respective councils, Tech has played a key role in monitoring geographic and financial interests in GLIAC expansion. But, according to GLIAC Commissioner Dell Robinson, expansion takes into account more than just geography.
"In the past, there has been sometimes not as much tendency to consider some geographical concerns," Robinson said. "Now that we have (Mroz and Sanregret) that live it every day, we can have it as a forefront area but what came of this meeting is geography is important, but we have to broaden our focus."
"We're looking at how do they fit in mission, focus, academic profile. We're digging deeper into the depth of what expansion means," he said.
The GLIAC followed its strategic plan through this year to expand the league by twos to 16, and, according to Robinson, future expansion possibilities are in the works, including two schools whose names are not being announced yet. Canadian schools were also mentioned as "intriguing" to Robinson and the council.
Robinson alluded to several possible issues with GLIAC expansion, both related to geography. With Walsh and Malone, the conference now has nine Michigan schools and seven Ohio schools. According to Robinson, balancing the numbers in each state seems reasonable with a much larger pool of potential candidates in Ohio, but it could have a downside, too.
"When you start making the two silos, will they just want to start competing by themselves, and at the Division I level, we've seen what can happen with that," Robinson said.
While it may seem like the league might be outgrowing itself, Robinson also alluded to another concern about possibly losing Ohio schools to the newly formed Great Midwest Athletic Conference, which starts play this fall with four schools from Ohio, two from Kentucky, one from Tennessee and one from Virginia; or the breaking up of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which was just announced Monday.
To counter teams potentially leaving, the Presidents Council agreed during 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. meetings Friday to increase the GLIAC's exit fee to $20,000 per month if a team announces it would leave the league in a year or less, or $10,000 per month if a team announces it would leave the league in two years or less.
"We're trying to encourage somebody to not be lazy in the process that they would do in notifying the conference. We want everyone to be transparent," Robinson said.
He said no school has announced its intention to leave the GLIAC, but "We have a certain urgency now to say (the GMAC and WVIAC) looks attractive to some people."
In other decisions at Friday's meetings, the GLIAC:
heard from an NCAA consultant who helped confirm and refine the league's current top-down model of governance.
reviewed a draft of a five-year forecast, and discussed a funding model and how to generate more conference revenue.
"In this particular year, we had over $100,000 in surplus due to adding two teams, but we won't always have that," Robinson said.
extended Robinson's contract as conference commissioner for two more years.