One thing was made crystal clear to any observer who attended the press conference at Monmouth University’s Multipurpose Athletic Center on December 17 to announce that their athletic department was joining the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference: while money was surely a part of any decision: it sure seemed to be about much more than that.
From the laughs, the smiles, and the stories, it appeared that Monmouth and the MAAC shared three crucial traits that helped to bring them together: friendships, shared values, and enhanced media exposure.
The housekeeping was taken care of that previous Friday, when the press release established that all parties were happy to be joining forces and Monmouth was very thankful to the Northeast Conference. (Those thank you’s are crucial as Monmouth still hopes to participate in the Northeast Conference for three sports, including football.)
But what was hidden from view in that press release became easy to see in person at the press conference: these people share bonds that go back a long ways.
Monmouth President Paul Gaffney and Rider University President Mordechai Rozanski were all smiles as they talked about how excited they were about an upcoming Monmouth-Rider rivalry in many sports. Gaffney and MAAC commissioner Richard Ensor talked about how far back their friendship goes and how this is an easy transition for all parties involved.
St. Peter’s University President Eugene Cornacchia, meanwhile, who is head of the MAAC Council of Presidents, spoke about how the Hawks and the MAAC share common values, which makes this an easy integration for both entities.
“That [having common values] is so important to the other MAAC schools,” he said. “Academics and athletics -- you [Monmouth] understand and you get the appropriate balance between the two. We all know that at some institutions athletics drives much of what happens at those institutions. And it gets out of control many times. The MAAC schools are united, they have always been united, on the importance of academics first, and athletics second.”
But the biggest payoff for fans, both of Monmouth and Quinnipiac, who also will enter the MAAC next season, will be the increased media exposure. Through a rights deal with ESPN, a lot more basketball games will get exposure on a national stage than they currently do as members of the Northeast Conference, which can only be a positive for all parties involved.
“Typically, each MAAC school is guaranteed minimally three appearances on the MAAC funded broadcast,” Ensor said. “So that would include ESPNU, ESPN2 and ESPN3. And that also includes at least minimally one women’s telecast. So those minimums will be met. And then additional games are driven somewhat by who the interest of the network [is] – in terms of which teams are looking to be particularly hot in a given year…. So minimally everyone gets three.”
In addition, the official streaming website of the MAAC, MAAC.tv, will provide live streaming action of some games as well.
Ensor also said that he will be having discussions soon with ESPN about any changes in their rights deal that may be necessitated by the addition of the two schools.
On a related topic, the MAAC announced on December 20 that they would be moving to a “20-game double round-robin regular season conference schedule” for men’s and women’s basketball next year, with 10 home games and 10 away games.
All this adds up to a new era for both Monmouth and the MAAC, and if the press conference was any sign, this will be a partnership that already is off to a flying, all-smiles start.
That is until that Monmouth-Rider rivalry starts up for real again.