Around the Nation

Re-ranking the conferences for 2016

The strength of the WIAC isn't necessarily because of its top team. It's because its second- and third-best team are in the top 10.
Photo by Steve Frommell,

I’m going to be honest with you.  

Preseason rankings don’t matter. Midseason rankings don’t matter. Mount Union will tell you. So will UW-Whitewater. With recent and upcoming conference realignment and more D-III schools adding football, non-conference play has become increasingly rare. Several programs play one non-conference game, then nine conference contests. Guess which game matters least on those schedules?

It’s not easy to compare conferences. Some are no-brainers. Guess what? The WIAC, with three teams in the top ten, is the toughest conference in the country. After that, it gets more interesting.

I didn’t use any computer rankings to compile this list. I didn’t look at the Top 25 and rank the conferences based on which has the most ranked teams. I looked at this season’s results from top to bottom. I looked at depth. A conference could have two great teams, but if it also has two of the worst teams in D-III, it’s not going to be ranked as highly. Non-conference results come into play, especially for leagues that have several head-to-head results, like the USA South and ODAC.

Keith McMillan (with input from Pat Coleman) always ranks the conferences in Kickoff. It’s a tradition to re-rank them in Around the Nation. For what it’s worth, I made my rankings before looking back at Keith’s preseason order. This is my first crack at it. I can’t wait for you to tell me how wrong I am.

1. Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

Kickoff ranking: 1

Heading into the opening weekend of conference play, five WIAC teams are a perfect 3-0. Every team has at least one victory. Three teams are ranked in the top ten. This ranking should be undisputed.

2. Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

Kickoff ranking: 2

Headlined by two top ten teams in St. Thomas and St. John’s, the conference gets a boost from Hamline’s history 3-0 start. Gustavus Adolphus’s win over WIAC foe UW-River Falls also helps, especially considering Bethel’s disappointing 1-3 start.

3. Empire 8

Kickoff ranking: 5

The E8 is always in the conversation as a two-bid conference. This year, the competition is fierce. St. John Fisher is 4-0, but so are Alfred and, surprisingly, Utica. The Pioneers’ win...

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Adam Turer

Adam Turer graduated in 2006 from Washington and Lee University, where he was a two-year starter at free safety. He lives in Cincinnati and covers area high school sports in addition to his full-time job as an attorney. Adam has contributed to since 2007 and is in his first season writing Around the Nation after spending four seasons writing Around the Mid-Atlantic.

2014-2015 columnist: Ryan Tipps.
2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.


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