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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, April 20, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

The Big East has been a good home for Marquette, but with the conference's future tied to football, it might be time to move on. (PHOTO: Maggie Casey/Marquette Athletics)

Sunday Scorecard: Marquette should dictate its conference future


As the conference realignment game continues to spin, Marquette is awaiting its fate.

The choice of most fans and stakeholders is to remain in the Big East which, at first glance, makes sense. The league provides some serious credibility and name recognition and exposes prospective recruits and students to the Marquette brand.

Again, at first glance, it makes sense.

But what's painfully obvious in all this mess is that basketball, especially "basketball-only" schools like Marquette (and that's not intended as a shot at the other wonderful programs schools like Marquette offer), don't seem to matter very much in the grand scheme of things.

Football is king. Football drives the revenue wagon. Football drives the TV ratings. But schools like Marquette – and DePaul, and St. John's and etc. – are left by the wayside.

It doesn't have to be that way, though. In fact, it shouldn't be.

It's been long believed that eventually, the non-football schools of the Big East, would have to or be forced to branch out on their own and form a so-called "Catholic League."

The notion of this league hasn't sat well with a lot of fans, but look a little closer and it could be the best thing to happen to Marquette.

It was one thing when the Big East was the Big East of Syracuse, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and so on. But those schools are on their way out with schools like Army, Air Force and possibly Central Florida on their way in.

Not even the Big East name makes this an attractive opportunity anymore.

Marquette shouldn't sit idly by and let other powers dictate its fate, especially those that don't seem to have the Golden Eagles' best interest in mind. The basketball programs are on the rise; the soccer programs are enjoying top-notch seasons; the Olympic sports are very good, too.

Matching up against similar competition would not only help the athletic program, it might even provide an opportunity to take the next step. Playing against schools more in tune with Marquette's size, stature and philosophies would give the Golden Eagles the opportunity from a team that could sneak atop a powerhouse league every few years to a team that could be dominant year in and year out.

Marquette and the other non-football schools of the Big East deserve better. The Golden Eagles have an opportunity to take the initiative and rally their fellow Big East schools to the cause.

Love for the WIAC: USA Today last week profiled one of Wisconsin's best-kept sports secrets: The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

The league, made up entirely of UW System schools is a powerhouse at the non-scholarship NCAA Division III level, with 92 National Championships in 14 team sports.

The WIAC celebrates its 100th anniversary next year and in this time of conference shuffling, can take pride in its stability: not since 1964, when UWM opted to move up to Division I, has a team joined or left the league.

At the D-III level, the players truly are student-athletes. They go to class, they go to practice and many of them even manage to hold down jobs.

The piece also included a sidebar on some of the better-known WIAC alumni.

Pay for play: While we're talking about college sports, let's take a moment to discuss the latest effort by the NCAA, which would give college athletes up to $2,000 a year for cost-of-living expenses, in addition to their scholarship.

In short, this is a ridiculous proposition. College athletes do have extra pressure on them. They do have to juggle practice, play and class. Most students don't have to deal with such issues.

But at the same time, most college kids also don't have the luxury of having their tuition, books, housing and meals provided for them. They, or their parents, have to foot the bill.

If college athletes are going to get money to live on, then when will schools knock two grand off the ever-growing cost of tuition for those paying their own way? When will ticket prices be slashed for those students who pay to go watch their classmates play?

The purpose of college athletics needs to be redefined. If you're going to pay players, then it's time to close up shop, let the pros take over and retool college athletics as a de facto minor league.

So no, while athletes do have a lot expected of them, paying them even the most miniscule of benefits is an absurd idea. The kids in D-II and D-III seem to make it work, those competing at the D-I level should find a way to do so, too.

The clock is ticking: With the World Series over, baseball's offseason free agent circus is officially underway. Teams have a window for exclusive negotiation with their own free agents, and the Brewers are hard at work to see what it would take to keep Prince Fielder in a Milwaukee uniform.

Of course it's no secret that such a scenario is beyond unlikely. Fielder, represented by Scott Boras, is believed to be seeking a contract similar to Adrian Gonzalez's seven-year, $154-million deal with Boston and could see offers approaching the $200 million mark.

Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has said repeatedly that he doesn't plan to sit idly by and just let Fielder walk, but it's highly doubtful that the Brewers, with their limited streams of revenue, will be able to throw around the type of money Fielder and Boras are seeking.

Stranger things have happened in baseball, but prepare yourself for the sight of Fielder in a new uniform next year.

Larry King Lounge: Planking was the rage during the summer but now, Scorecard would like to introduce you to the newest Internet sensation: Tebowing ... It seems beloved Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is quite the prankster, especially when it comes to team pictures ... Former Wisconsin hockey coach Jeff Sauer and current UW women's coach Mark Johnson received the Lester Patrick Trophy, presented to those who have given outstanding service to hockey in the United States ... The Brewers have been to the postseason four times in their history and three of those trips ended with losses to the eventual World Champions ... Speaking of the Brewers, Hall of Famer Robin Yount will be on-hand Tuesday when the newest member of the Northwoods League is unveiled at the new baseball facility at Concordia University.

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