One-on-One With MAC Commissioner Rick Chryst

Last week, the Mid-American Conference Commissioner paid a visit to Kalamazoo. I had the opportunity to be able to talk with Commissioner Chryst. We talked a little bit about rumors, about the television the MAC gets, and the respect the conference is getting nationally compared to regionally.

I want to talk a little bit about rumors. With the new bowl agreement between the GMAC bowl, the MAC, and the Western Athletic Conference; they (Internet message board users) are talking about with the performance of the teams so far. The rumor is that the MAC is only going to end up with one bowl bid, that being the Motor City Bowl, because of the way things are working out. Can you explain how that is or isn't true and how this whole thing is going to affect the MAC?

"Only a rumor and I guess that's why I don't spend time in those chat rooms or otherwise. Contractually we're guaranteed the two bowl bids. Guaranteed of two that's here. So that if Mobile GMAC bowl were to select a WAC team, that our second team would automatically be in the Humanitarian game regardless of their agreement with the Big Twelve. So, we're guaranteed the two bowl games. I think when all is said and done, we will have a team in Detroit, we will have a team in Mobile, and we've got as good a shot as we've ever had for a third team in Boise. That would be if there was not a team from a BCS league available for Boise. But, there is no way we will only have one, contractually we're guaranteed two."

So how does that fourth bowl (the Silicone Valley) fit into the picture?

"We could end up in San Jose. I think that's a little less likely. The WAC controls both the Boise game and the San Jose game. So our team could go to either one of those. But my guess is that Boise is where it will set up. Again, contractually were guaranteed to have it too if the WAC can't open up a spot in either of its games they would not be able to accept the invitation to Mobile."

In your opinion, what's it going to take to get more coverage on national television, like ESPN, ABC, NBC and CBS? What's it going to take for the MAC to get more teams on those channels?

"I think just exactly what's happening right now, which is our programs growing, our programs becoming more competitive. We've made some strides with our national television as recently as three years ago, we had no regular season national television. We've averaged at least four games nationally in the regular season for each of the last three years. I think we're making progress and I think it's just a matter of our programs continuing to improve."

When Western Michigan and Marshall faced off in the MAC Championship in 2000, that was broadcast on ABC, what caused the game last season to be put back to ESPN?

"ESPN always had the rights to our championship game and I think as people are aware ESPN and ABC are managed jointly, owned by the Disney Company. In the year 2000, there was a window where ABC really was interested in the game and we had the opportunity to move the game there. We love any one of the 3 spots. Would it be great to get back on ABC again? Yes, but we love what ESPN does for us, we love what ESPN2 does for us, so I think each one has sort of an advantage."

When they (national media) compare a Marshall and Virginia Tech or Western Michigan and Michigan, it seems like they ignore the positive points of these programs and focus more on that they are a middle of the road team or a good team with a bad defense or something like that. What's it going to take for them to start focusing on all the good points?

"I think its coming. I think there probably will always be a little bit of David/Goliath in what we do. At the same time, I think educated football people, and I think that is what you get with a lot of the commentary, not all of it, but ESPN's Gameday and otherwise. I think they know where the league's getting. I think bowl success becomes important, non-conference success becomes important and nationally prominent players, which this league has, becomes important. I'm confident that the reputation will follow as well.

I've noticed a trend around the country where the MAC is getting more respect all around the country, except the region that we're in. Why is that?

"If I knew the answer to that. I think at times that is very true and I don't think it's a sales job. I think people will come to their own determinations. But I do think there is a little bit of education that we still got to do internally to our own communities about the level that our programs are really competing at. But those are all good challenges are to have. I think that if our coaches are confident about who they are and where they're going, if our student athletes are confident about it I think that more than anything else starts a change in the culture and a mindset."

Do you think that the Big Ten factor also plays a part in that?

"Maybe a little, although I've always thought that this was a great geography. People always say, "Hey, you're in the shadow of the Big Ten." My thought is that it's a great neighborhood to be in and I like our relationship with the Big Ten programs. I think how we schedule sometimes, I would like to see us do a little bit more with Conference USA, with the Mountain West Conference, with the WAC. Not to the exclusion of the Big Ten but to really balance it out a little bit because those are conferences that I think we can benchmark ourselves against. Again, I think our expectations when we go into most every game are not just to compete but to leave with a victory and I think that mindset more than anything else is really encouraging to me."

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