OPINION: The Big South and the Colonials have run out of “big fish” to fry
With all the "big fish" out, is this RMU's chance to thrive in the Big South for years to come? Is it time to move again? Who could join the conference?
January 19, 2022
The Big South Conference has dealt with a ton of change over the past several seasons.
North Alabama reclassified from DII to DI and joined the conference in 2019, Presbyterian College departed in 2020 to join the Pioneer League, and Robert Morris and North Carolina A&T joined the Big South for their first full season in 2021.
Now, the strong nine-team conference has been shrunk to just five teams as North Alabama and Kennesaw State leave to join the newly formed ASUN Football conference while Monmouth and Hampton will join the Colonial Athletic Association effective in July.
In their new conference, the Colonials only beat one of these teams in their first fall season this past season, defeating Hampton at Joe Walton Stadium with a 38-35 win on October 30.
With all the “big fish” out, is this RMU’s chance to thrive in this conference for years to come? Is this the time to move again? Who could join the conference? I will be breaking down what is next for the conference and the Colonials.
RMU’S FUTURE CHANCES IN THE BIG SOUTH
Having two teams in the conference with national rankings at the season’s end (Monmouth and Kennesaw State) leaving will be a double-edged sword for RMU as the competition is somewhat weaker. However, there may be a downside as the Colonials may not grow with a weaker competition each year, so it is debatable.
The Colonials went 1-3 against the teams that will leave in the 2021 season and 2-2 against the teams that will stay. The Colonials were better against teams that will remain in the conference. Things are looking up for Coach Clark and company.
With there being five teams and a likely 11 or 12 game schedule for the Big South, this opens up home-and-home conference opportunities and an additional non-conference game with FBSchedules.com showing three non-conference games already in 2022.
SHOULD THE COLONIALS MOVE AGAIN?
I don’t think so. I think the Big South is the right home for the Colonials, especially since they joined in 2020. Just a year and a half in a new conference is too soon to move, even with North Alabama leaving after two seasons. It’s too quickly a move as they have not seemed to have settled into their new home yet.
While it is true that they are now a geographical outlier with Monmouth out, they have dealt with travel issues in the NEC before so that shouldn’t be a problem.
COULD THE BIG SOUTH EXPAND?
Sure. I don’t see why not. A five-team conference is too small for it to be competitive. Many schools could be up for consideration. Some Southern Conference members could join, such as Chattanooga, The Citadel, or Mercer.
The Pioneer League has a lot of teams in it, so joining the Big South could even the leagues out a little. Dayton, Presbyterian, and Davidson are excellent schools to join the conference. RMU usually has a yearly rivalry game against Dayton, making that move all the more manageable.
COULD THE BIG SOUTH BE MERGED?
Also, yes, but it seems a little farfetched. Everything is on the table at this current moment. After Monmouth left less than 24 hours ago, we didn’t know what would happen. Anything is likely being considered in the Big South headquarters in Charlotte.
If there were a league that could be a possibility in merging, personally, it would be the Ohio Valley. As the Big South, there are only five teams, along with the five Big South members.
This “mega-conference” would include the current Big South members plus Eastern Illinois, Southeast Missouri State, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, and UT Martin.
If this happens, the league could explore splitting the conference into north and south divisions, which would help travel issues.
The tweet below shows an interesting proposal with the Big South merging with the ASUN, which is feasible as it leaves room for one addition or subtraction.
In the scenario of subtraction, it leaves RMU on the chopping block due to the school being the furthest east and Eastern Kentucky as the closest school.
With nationally ranked teams like Monmouth and Kennesaw State leaving, it’s a shame, as when RMU played them there was some national spotlight in hopes to possibly upset them.
Maybe 2021 was not the year of the underdog in their case but just a year and a half removed from the official announcement of Robert Morris joining the Big South Conference, the “bigger fish” have swum through the net, leaving the conference with a big hole in it.