UB women’s soccer should be playing for a MAC title on Saturday night.
The Bulls had the most wins in the MAC East. They won the head-to-head battle over Bowling Green. And, unlike the Falcons, they did not have a COVID-19 outbreak.
But UB will not be heading to the MAC Championship Game.
Instead, they will be watching Bowling Green — the same team the Bulls beat and had more wins than during the regular season — on TV, all because MAC leadership is too stubborn — or is cowardly the better word? — to right its wrongs.
See, here’s the thing: with a 6-1-1 record, UB not only played more games, but finished tied for the most victories in the MAC, along with Ball State and Eastern and Western Michigan. Not only that, but the Bulls led the MAC in RPI — a tool used to measure a team’s wins and losses and strength of schedule — by a wide margin.
And, on March 14, the Bulls beat the Falcons, 2-1, in Buffalo.
But MAC leadership decided to set into motion a number of bizarre and frankly, unfair rules that ensured BGSU would win the conference. First, it decided to award a division title to the team that finished with the highest winning percentage, regardless of how many games they played. At 5-1, Bowling Green played two fewer games than UB.
This happened because of a COVID-19 outbreak that forced them to cancel their last four games, including a scheduled contest against Buffalo on April 4.
Second, those games were supposed to be rescheduled. But the MAC misprinted the makeup dates in its bylaws, incorrectly writing that games could be made up from April 7-11, instead of the intended April 14-15.
The Falcons were sidelined until April 11 due to COVID-19. And the Bulls had games on April 8 and 11, making a makeup game virtually impossible.
Despite the obvious typo and an appeal from head coach Shawn Burke, the MAC refused to budge.
So just like that, one of the most successful seasons in UB women’s soccer came to a close, for no other reason than a typo and the imprudent behavior of conference leadership.
Sensing the gravity of the moment, people and entities in and around the UB community voiced their support for the women’s team.
“They have sacrificed so much for themselves, their teammates and their university and they deserve a better fate than the one decided for them,” UB Athletic Director Mark Alnutt wrote in a statement.
“We deserve the opportunity to play in make-up games that would fairly decide who should compete for the MAC Championship,” junior midfielder/defender Hannah Callaghan wrote in a tweet that garnered over 1,100 likes. “We have earned the right to play.”
“Support fairness. Support competition. Support logic,” FC Buffalo, the Queen City’s National Premier Soccer League team, tweeted.
It’s easy to dismiss these comments as biased or coming from “homers,” except for the fact that they are objectively reasonable. UB deserves an opportunity to continue its season, and nobody — certainly not a bunch of people in an air-conditioned room in Cleveland — should be able to take that opportunity away from them.
Here’s another objectively reasonable argument: something like this would have never stood in a men’s sport.
Last fall, the Big Ten required football teams to play a minimum of six contests if they wanted to qualify for the conference title game. But then, conference officials caved into pressure after Ohio State fans — whose team only played five regular season games — made a lot of noise.
“The decision was based on a competitive analysis which determined that Ohio State would have advanced [to the championship game] based on its undefeated record and head-to-head victory over Indiana regardless of a win or loss against Michigan,” the statement from the Big Ten read.
Sounds awfully familiar, huh?
But here’s the difference between the two situations: in OSU’s case, the team in question was a major revenue generator. Not only that, but it was a men’s sport. Meanwhile, in UB’s case, the women’s soccer team is just that… a women’s soccer team.
And for whatever reason, the MAC has decided to treat women’s sports teams differently than men’s sports teams.
Could you imagine how Virginia or Syracuse or Duke fans would react if the ACC kept their teams out of the men’s basketball tournament because of a typo?
There would be riots.
Unfortunately, there isn’t the same pressure in the MAC, and certainly not in a sport like women’s soccer.
But that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be.
The ball is in your court, MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher.
Don’t squander this opportunity.
Justin Weiss is the managing editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hunter Skoczylas is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Justin Weiss is The Spectrum's managing editor. In his free time, he can be found hiking, playing baseball or throwing things at his TV when his sports teams aren't winning. His words have appeared in Elite Sports New York and the Long Island Herald. He can be found on Twitter @Jwmlb1.
Hunter Skoczylas is the sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found looking up random sports statistics, jamming to Fleetwood Mac and dedicating his Sunday afternoons to watching the Buffalo Bills.