Created:Wednesday, June 23, 2010 11:35 p.m.CST
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MAC holding steady on expansion

By JOHN SAHLY - jsahly@daily-chronicle.com
Northern Illinois running back Chad Spann runs for a touchdown against Western Michigan last season. The Mid-American Conference has been quiet during conference expansion and focused on solidifying its 13 member schools for football. (Rob Winner – rwinner@daily-chronicle.com)

Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon Steinbrecher insists the conference isn’t active when it comes to conference expansion. But he wouldn’t characterize the MAC as passive, either.

Conference expansion has been a hot topic this month with the moves of Nebraska to the Big 10, Colorado and Utah to the Pac-10 and Boise State to the Mountain West Conference. The MAC has been out of the conversation almost altogether in terms of adding or losing teams.

With the conference chaos settled for the moment, the expansion and realignment of conferences in college football has instead been folded into a conversation MAC members have had for some time now. At 13 teams for football, what is the long-term solution for how the conference will continue to operate with an odd number and uneven divisions in its most prominent sport?

“I believe we are stable,” Steinbrecher said. “I think it continues to be a topic of conversation. It’s been managed and it has worked and we’ll continue to move forward.

“We remain at 13.”

Asked if that number is where he wants to remain, Steinbrecher said, “I don’t think I’ll comment on that. Again, I think we’ll continue to look at opportunities and if there’s opportunities to strengthen ourselves then we’ll look at it.”

Steinbrecher said he kept a close eye on what was going on while the Big 12 Conference seemingly teetered on the brink of collapse, only to remain in tact with 10 teams as well as the changes to the Western Athletic Conference and MWC.

Among the conference members, Steinbrecher said there was no increased impetus to expand just because other conferences were doing it.

If the MAC were to seriously look at adding a school, Steinbrecher emphasized that it would have to be a school that fits with the goals and values of the other member schools.

“We are moving forward in this kind of situation where if we identified people that would strengthen the conference, then that’s something we would move forward on.” Steinbrecher said. “But I don’t think it created a greater sense of urgency.”

One of the biggest factors in schools moving conferences were TV rights and the revenue schools could make by switching. The MAC is entering the second year of an eight-year deal with ESPN to broadcast a minimum of 11 nationally televised football games a year, with six on ESPN or ESPN2 and five on ESPNU.

Steinbrecher said he doesn’t talk publicly about the specifics of how much revenue the deal generates for the conference.

“It provided a nice increase over what the conference previously had received,” he said.

Steinbrecher also believes the conference’s bowl agreements, including the one most recently signed with the Humanitarian Bowl, will not be in jeopardy because of expansion.

“I’ll be out in Boise this week at an event and we look forward to that relationship,” Steinbrecher said “It’s one relationship in particular that seems to be questioned. We’ve had no changes to what we’ve signed onto. I fully expect us to have four wonderful years with those folks.”

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