COLUMBIA, Mo. – The Mid-American Conference (MAC) announced today the addition of the University of Missouri as an affiliate member in the sport of wrestling, along with the University of Northern Iowa and Old Dominion University.
“After significant study and discussion by our member institution’s coaches and administrators the Mid-American Conference has made a move that will take what is already a very strong wrestling conference and make it one of the elite wrestling conferences in the country,” said Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher, Commissioner of the Mid-American Conference. “I am pleased to welcome Missouri, Northern Iowa, and Old Dominion, their student-athletes, coaches and fans to the MAC in the sport of wrestling.”
The Tigers join the MAC with a five-year agreement. Mizzou will compete in only the conference tournament for the 2012-13 season and will participate fully in regular season and tournament action for the next four consecutive years (2013-14 season through 2016-17 academic season).
“I’m very confident that the Mid-American Conference is a great fit for our program,” said head coach Brian Smith. “Over the past several years, some of the nation's top teams and best wrestlers - both on an academic and athletic level - have come from the MAC, and we are excited to help continue that tradition.”
The addition of the three affiliate members will increase the MAC wrestling membership to nine members with Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Northern Illinois and Ohio. With this increase in wrestling membership, the MAC will become the third largest Division I wrestling league in the nation only behind the Big Ten and the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA). This move will also provide the conference extended recruiting opportunities from across the Midwest towards the East Coast into Virginia.
“The league has been proactive in expanding themselves on the wrestling side, and we know our program will help enhance the overall prestige of the conference,” Smith stated. “We've already built some great rivalries with some of these teams over the past few years, and competing with schools from that area will help us expand our reach on the recruiting trail. We look forward to being part of this great conference."
Mizzou captured the Big 12 Tournament Championship last year for the first conference title in program history. The Tigers produced four individual Big 12 Champions, while head coach Brian Smith was named Big 12 Coach of the Year. Missouri led the nation and set a program record by sending ten grapplers to the 2012 NCAA Championship.
"We're honored that the University of Missouri will have an opportunity to compete in the Mid-American Conference as an affiliate member,” Mizzou Director of Athletics Mike Alden said. “The MAC is a highly respected conference and this provides our program the opportunity to continue competing at a very high level. Head Coach Brian Smith has built one of the nation's elite programs and we look forward to seeing them continue towards a National Championship as a member of the MAC.”
Last season Kent State won the MAC regular season title and the previous season witnessed a three-way tie for the MAC regular season title between Kent State, Central Michigan and Ohio. Central Michigan has won the last 11 consecutive MAC Wrestling Championships dating back to the 2002 season. In the last five consecutive years, the MAC has witnessed a program finish in the Top 20 at the NCAA Wrestling Championship and twice had two programs finish in the Top 20 -- 2009 (Central Michigan tied-14th; Kent State 18th) and 2011 (Central Michigan tied-13th; Kent State 17th). The last Top Ten finish by the MAC in the NCAA Wrestling Championship was Central Michigan’s seventh place finish in 2008.
Smith, entering his 15th year, is the winningest coach in program history with an overall dual record of 173-73-3. Under his direction, the Tigers have produced four National Champions (Ben Askren – 2006, ’07; Mark Ellis – 2009 and Max Askren in 2010), while 14 wrestlers have earned 26 All-America honors.