I already know I’m going to get some flak for this. But here it goes.
I do not understand why the Group of Five title is disliked by so many.
“It’s insulting!” I can already visualize the Twixter comments saying. “It’s demeaning and it ruins the brand of (insert name of college that never had a brand as strong as any Power Five program here).”
And you know what? I understand not wanting to inherently be seen as “lesser than” just because of the conference you play in.
But there is such a clear divide between the G5 and the Power
Five Four. And recent conference realignment proves it.
No one has been rushing to go to the MAC. Oregon State and Washington State might have to settle on the Mountain West or AAC, but that’s not because they want to. They desire to be like the rest of the Pac-12 and rush off to stronger conferences with better media deals.
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The talent level is debatable to some extent. The best of the best G5 teams like Tulane can keep up with elite Power Five schools, like the Green Wave did when they beat USC in the Cotton Bowl last year.
And listen, I want G5 teams to beat P5 programs routinely. I hope that happens plenty this weekend.
That’s what makes college football special, right? In the wake of the Pac-12 dismantling, it’s easy to forget why we love the sport so much. Upsets each and every week are a blast to watch (and for me, write about).
But you can’t have David vs. Goliath without a David in the first place. And right now, the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, and ACC sure aren’t David.
If we’re talking across the board, top to bottom, for better or worse, those conferences have more talent. They have higher revenues. They have more TV viewers. Most coaches dart for those schools the second they have the chance, in no small part because it’s better pay.
And those leagues also don’t have teams which desperately want to go to a Group of Five conference anytime soon. The AAC can continue saying how much of a “power” conference it is, but its best programs like Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF (and maybe SMU soon) keep leaving for a reason. Those P5 conferences are different and will have more to offer.
AAC commissioner Mike Aresco continues to talk about how much he hates the G5 label, even going as far to say he thinks it has directly led to recent conference realignment.
I don’t think that’s true. Schools themselves aren’t separated solely by the P5 and G5 monikers.
Look no further than Oregon State and Washington State. Every other Pac-12 program has either gone to another Power Five league, or it seems they will soon in the case of Cal and Stanford.
Did OSU and WSU automatically have a chance to play in a power league because they were previously? The answer is no.
So let’s not pretend that calling a league a Group of Five conference has put this enormous burden on programs. There’s a division for many more reasons than just a name.
“Group of Five is a made up name!” I can hear someone say.
First, all names are made up. Second, stop yelling, this is a Wendy’s.
Third, the Group of Five is simply a term to refer to the conferences outside of the Autonomous Five. That’s a label no fan can escape. The other leagues have more “power” than the G5 leagues.
And we tried the whole “Non-Autonomous Five” thing, didn’t we? Maybe people just don’t like the “Group of Five” term specifically?
I’m open to ideas. Maybe the Ragtag Leagues? The Funky Five? OK, yes, fine, those are way worse. Again, I’ll take other suggestions.
“We’re sick of being viewed as the little brother!” And you know what? That’s a point I can sympathize with.
I went to North Dakota State, an FCS school. No matter how many national championships the Bison won, no matter how many FBS teams they beat, no matter how many NDSU players were top picks in the NFL Draft, I always heard the “Congrats, you’re the best of JV” kind of remarks.
Which brings me back to my earlier point. NDSU thrived on being the underdog in those matchups – that is until Power Five programs hesitated to schedule the Bison anymore.
I wish more people would embrace the underdog role. People love it when mid-majors go on runs in March Madness. Fans can rally around the teams everyone knows has lesser resources and less visibility and relish in their appearance in the Final Four.
How is a team with a G5 label winning a big bowl game any different from a loveable mid-major reaching the Elite Eight? And rarely do you hear those mid-majors complaining about being called mid-majors. Just like G5 teams shouldn’t hate being called G5.
There’s a distinction between mid-major and high-major basketball programs. Just like there is between P5 and G5 programs and how they operate, as I outlined above.
We at HERO Sports specialize in FCS and Group of Five coverage. We love the mid-major level of college football because it’s still fun and it doesn’t receive the spotlight it deserves.
The best Group of Five quarterbacks are just as enjoyable to watch on Saturdays as some SEC passers. G5 teams are great teams, even if the power leagues truly are a league of their own.
Who doesn’t love some MAC-tion and Conference USA tilts when you’re craving for some football to watch on a Thursday? I know I do.
That’s why I write this column – to say the Group of Five is different and exciting all at the same time.
And I hate to say, but you know what makes the little brother mentality even worse? When you rant about not being the little brother despite the facts I laid out earlier.
Group of Five teams, when you’re facing P5 programs, you usually are the underdog. If you win, doesn’t it make it all that much sweeter?
Group of Five, Fun Five, Ragtag Leagues (is that starting to grow on me?), or Non-Autonomous Five.
Whatever you wanna call it, it’s awesome. It’s fun. I say embrace it.