The CWU football team has been making a name for itself in NCAA Division II football since head coach Ian Shoemaker started four years ago. He’s led the Wildcats to a 30-13 record in his first four seasons, and currently the team is at 7-2 looking for their second GNAC title. But with the news earlier this year that Humboldt State University was going to drop their football program after the end of 2018, leaving the GNAC with only four teams, it would be a hit on the conference’s reputation by the NCAA for being a weak conference. With the Wildcats still trying to gain a reputation in Division II football, there are a few scenarios that can happen moving forward.
With questions raised about what CWU should do, I will offer a few different possibilities and suggestions for both CWU and the GNAC itself.
Bring a team into the GNAC
With the GNAC being slimmed down to just four teams after this season (Simon Fraser, Azusa Pacific, CWU and Western Oregon), a possible step would be to bring a team into the GNAC. Teams like Dixie State, who were in the GNAC until 2016, or Colorado State Pueblo University would make the most sense. Being that both teams in are in the Midwest part of the country, it would make traveling not too much of a hassle.
Join a different conference
Another possibility would be for CWU to leave the GNAC and join a different conference. The reason that this option may not be best is the amount of traveling that would happen for CWU Football. The other conference in Division II that would be reasonably close would be the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC). The RMAC involves schools through the Midwestern states from Colorado to South Dakota and Nebraska. A reason that this option would be unlikely is that the conference is already at 11 teams and would not have room for the Wildcats.
Another possible option is for the Wildcats to move divisions. It would be enjoyable to see CWU football to move up to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivisions, have a rivalry with Eastern Washington University and become the little brother rivalry to Washington State University and University of Washington. Why this would be unlikely anytime soon is that CWU would need to upgrade the facilities which they are already in the process of with the new renovations added to Tomlinson Stadium. The building was renovated this year with a $6 million new field and stadium, according with the CWU website. With more plans in the future to continue to upgrade tomlinson stadium, another thing that would hold CWU back from moving up divisions would be skill level compared to some of the Division 1 Football Championship Subdivision schools. During CWU’s season opener against Eastern Washington University (EWU), there was a lot of hype to see if CWU could hold their own against a bigger school. With the speed and athleticism of EWU out matching the Wildcats, they ended up losing 58-13. I think if the Wildcats can continue to play at the level they currently have been at for the last two seasons, and if the upgrading of the athletic facilities continue, moving divisions is a possibility.
What the Wildcats should do
I do think that CWU should leave the GNAC. I suggest two goals, one long-term and one short-term.
Long-term wise, I would like the Wildcats to move up to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, because it would bring more legiamancy CWU and making them a bigger name in college football. In order for this to happen, CWU needs to continue to play at the level they have been playing at for the last two seasons. They need to make a bigger name for themselves in Division II. This would hopefully bring the attention of more recruiters to CWU, but that will take time.
However, short term I do think that CWU should leave the GNAC and move to a different conference, like the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The biggest reason is that the level of competition is much greater than what the GNAC is currently offering. With schools like Colorado School of Mines, Dixie State, and Colorado State University Pueblo, it would give more competition to a team on the rise like CWU and make the Wildcats of a legitimate contender in the Division II football.
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