Relevance, recognition, acknowledgment and praise are things that universities crave for their athletic teams, and for good reason. The pressure to win and produce is felt at almost any school in the country for a number of reasons, such as the significant amount of money invested into the program by the school, as well as the hard work and dedication given by student athletes to balance excellence on the field of play and in the classroom.
Unfortunately, this a tough task for the majority of Division I schools, as the amount of programs that do not qualify for postseason play on a yearly basis significantly outweighs the amount of teams that do qualify. The reason why so many teams miss out on postseason play is the structure of Division I athletics.
In Division I, there are five conferences that are known as the “Power Five” conferences. Those conferences are the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and the Southeastern Conference (SEC). These five conferences generate the most money as they hold all of the powerhouse programs, such as UNC, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA, Michigan, Alabama etc.
Because of the popularity of those programs, Power Five conferences are able to sign deals with cable networks, further increasing the revenue the conference generates. Better revenue leads to better recruiting and better program success. Because of this, almost of all of the at large bids to postseason tournaments go to Power Five programs, and non-Power Five teams are forced to win their conference tournament just to earn a bid.
This is the reason that the Oklahoma Sooners Men’s Basketball team that finished with an (18-13) record in the regular season and posted a losing record of (8-10) in conference play was able to earn a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while a team like UNCG that finished the season with a record of (27-7) and had a record of (15-3) in conference play was only able to earn a 13 seed in the same tournament. UNCG also had to win their conference tournament, or else earning a bid would have been highly unlikely.
The difference is that UNCG plays in the Southern Conference (SoCon), while Oklahoma plays in the Big 12. Unfortunately, UNCG falls into the same category as the majority of the collegiate programs around the country as we are not in a Power Five conference.
The SoCon is likely to only have one participant in the postseason tournament of most sports. Because of this, UNCG, like most schools in the SoCon, struggles to annually qualify for postseason tournaments. However, thanks to the dedication by both the University and the student-athletes themselves, UNCG is often able to field competitive teams that compete for SoCon conference championships on a regular basis.
One of the main reasons UNCG is able to field such competitive teams is financial investment. The money invested by the school into the program is the primary factor toward the program’s level of success. To recruit top level talent, recruits must view a school as a place where they can maximize their potential and become a professional player. This is something that UNCG does an excellent job of doing.
Look no further than in 1991, when UNCG moved up to the Division I level after being Division III only 4 years earlier. In the same year, UNCG capitalized on the success of a men’s soccer program that had won five national championships since 1982 and built a new 3.6 million dollar soccer facility.
Another savvy move by the university was the decision to move the Greensboro Coliseum the home venue of UNCG Men’s Basketball to increase maximum attendance. Lastly, although it is for all students and faculty, the Kaplan Center cannot be ignored as a recruiting tool for the University either.
Decisions like these help UNCG be a competitive Division I program that is able to contend for postseason play, where anything is possible. Look no further than March Madness’ most recent Cinderella story in Loyola-Chicago. Loyola-Chicago made it all the way to the Final Four despite not having made a tournament appearance since 1985. Maybe UNCG competing for a national championship someday isn’t as crazy as it sounds.