Dynasties are good for sports. They give other teams and athletes a lofty goal to shoot for, as well as a common enemy. The men's swimming and diving team will get a close look at a living, breathing dynasty on Saturday, as they welcome defending Mid-American Conference champion Eastern Michigan to Lewellen Aquatic Center for a 1 p.m. contest.
In 22 years as the Cardinals' head coach, Bob Thomas has beaten Eastern Michigan only once. In 13 years as the Eagles' coach, Peter Linn has won 11 MAC championships. This year's Eastern Michigan team seems poised to add another trophy to Linn's mantle. They return six individual or relay champions from last year's MAC meet, have a talented roster and suffocating depth.
But Thomas said that better teams than the Eagles have fallen prey to bad timing.
"During the dual-meet season, it doesn't take much for a team to alter its training, come up with a peak performance and beat a stronger team," Thomas said. "It all depends on where the teams are in their training when they meet. I've been able to cycle our program so we get those peak performances on the weekends, and we've beaten a lot of good teams that way."
But winning on Saturday will take more than an altered training schedule. The Eagles come to Muncie with a 7-2 record, their only losses at the hands of nationally ranked opponents Michigan and Northwestern. Of common opponents this season, the Cardinals have dropped narrow decisions to Michigan State and Northern Illinois, whereas the Eagles have crushed both teams. And, in the last three meetings between Ball State and Eastern Michigan, the Eagles have won by a combined 229 points.
Thomas, however, is not afraid of the odds stacked against the Cardinals. He said his team needs to focus on their own races and give their best effort and if they do, the weekend will be a success regardless of the outcome.