Affiliate members of MAC add variety to men's swimming championship

<p>Junior Isaac Walling swims in the 1000 freestyle against Tiffin University on Nov. 5 at Lewellen Aquatic Center. The Ball State men's swim and dive team started the second half of the season losing to IUPUI and Xavier in the dual meet Jan. 6. <em style="background-color: initial;">Patrick Murphy // DN File</em></p>

Junior Isaac Walling swims in the 1000 freestyle against Tiffin University on Nov. 5 at Lewellen Aquatic Center. The Ball State men's swim and dive team started the second half of the season losing to IUPUI and Xavier in the dual meet Jan. 6. Patrick Murphy // DN File

Since the 2009-10 season, the men's swim and dive Mid-American Conference championship has been between seven teams. It has not always been that way, though.

Head swimming coach Bob Thomas said he remembers the MAC having 10 teams. The 10 teams with men's swimming programs were Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Kent State, Bowling Green State, Ohio, Miami and Ball State.

“They all had swimming at one time and then the NCAA changed some of the rules,” Thomas said.

Since then, only four original teams remain. In place of one being gone, three additional teams not traditionally in the MAC have joined for men's swimming. The teams include: Evansville, Missouri State and Southern Illinois.

The teams decided to join the MAC because the Missouri Valley Conference did not have enough teams—only three—for a conference championship meet.

Kyle Moats, athletic director for Missouri State, said the MAC has been a good fit for all involved.

“As a conference, we all decided to join the MAC together and form a solid conference and championship experience,” said Moats.

Missouri State swimming coach Dave Collins said the competition has been a great fit for their program.

“The teams are well coached and the student-athletes commitment is very high,” said Collins.

Evansville swimming head coach Rickey Perkins said his team tried the Sunbelt Conference for a few years.

“After that conference fell apart, we went to the MAC hoping that their four men's program and our three could grow into something special,” said Perkins. 

“Which it has.”

Since joining the MAC, Perkins has learned that this conference is fast from front to bottom.

“It is amazing how fast the meet has gotten over the last few years,” said Perkins.

Ball State has swam against Evansville every year since they joined the MAC. Thomas said Evansville has been their best competition.

“We have our weaknesses and strengths,” said Thomas. “But we seem to balance each other out with our competition.”

But the decision to join a conference is not up to swimming coaches; but, rather the athletic directors. 

Mark Spencer, the athletic director for Evansville, said the MAC is similar to MVC.

“The MAC is populated by a demographic of schools that mirror the MVC participants in regards to resources and commitment to the sport,” said Spencer. “That makes for a very competitive conference championship.”

The MAC Championships starts today in Carbondale, Illinois.

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