After rumors swirled for the past few months, it appears that Wichita State will make the jump from the Missouri Valley Conference to the American Athletic Conference.
Members of the American Athletic Conference are preparing for Wichita State to join the league for the 2017-18 season, per a source.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 4, 2017
That should mean a considerable step up in competition for the Shockers. The AAC has more traditionally good teams than the Missouri Valley (UConn and Cincinnati vs. Northern Iowa and Indiana State), and KenPom.com ranked it as the seventh-best conference in the country last year, while the MVC was ranked 10th.
This move makes all kinds of sense for Wichita State as it attempts to gain more respect nationwide. Despite having been a top program for years, the Shockers are overlooked by the rest of college basketball, and their soft conference schedule has led to them being criminally under-seeded—they were at top 10 team in KenPom this year but got a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Moreover, Wichita State spends like an AAC team, or even a power conference team. Backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, the team spends $6.9 million per year on basketball, according to data reported to the Department of Education. Top MVC rival Northern Iowa spends just $2.9 million per year.
The question is whether this will be worth it for the AAC. Wichita State is a good brand to have for basketball, but football and TV networks drive revenue, as the Big Ten and SEC have shown, and the Shockers don’t even have a football team. They’re also in the not-so-great TV market of Wichita, Kansas.
That has some fans of AAC schools puzzled.
Wichita is 1) a bad school 2) in a small market 3) in the middle of nowhere with 4) no meaningful success prior to their current coach https://t.co/0xgQiUmA64
— We take the stairs (@NoEscalators) March 24, 2017
Would Wichita State be a good add to the AAC?
— We take the stairs (@NoEscalators) March 21, 2017
(Real future convo)
"UConn? They're in the [clearly doesn't know] ACC?"
"Oh yeah. Still Big East"
"No. We, uh play Wichita St"
— We take the stairs (@NoEscalators) April 4, 2017
It’s pretty clear that, as long as coach Gregg Marshall is around and the team is spending big bucks, Wichita State offers improved basketball competition to the AAC, but doesn’t add much financially or add anything for football.
Is that worth it? Time will tell.