MIAA braces for University of Nebraska-Omaha

The University of Nebraska-Omaha has won 59 conference championships while a member of the North Central Conference in 13 different sports.

The Mavericks have won the women’s all-sports trophy three straight years and four of the past five seasons. Maverick teams have also added national titles in softball, soccer, volleyball and three times in wrestling while a member of the NCC.

And, now, they are coming to the MIAA.

On June 21 the presidents of the universities of the MIAA unanimously voted to welcome UNO into the conference.

“We’re honored to be a part of the MIAA and look forward to establishing new traditions and rivalries and rekindling old rivalries,” said David Miller, athletic director at UNO.

Although UNO will certainly bring a higher level of competition to the MIAA, they will also bring increased logistical issues.

The campus in Omaha is 350 miles north of Missouri Southern according to mapquest.com.

“From a logistical standpoint the fans look forward to it,” Miller said. “We’re going south where it’s warmer.

“My brother-in-law used to play baseball at UNO and he told me stories about how in between innings the players would jump into vans that had been running to warm up.”

While the fans and athletes at UNO may be looking forward to warmer climates the Southern athletic department will still need to set aside extra money for the long road trips north. “We don’t know yet how much it will cost, said Sallie Beard director of athletics for Southern.

“We only have to go up there once every two years in football and we have other teams that travel up that way for competition now.”

As far as the competition level is concerned, UNO is just as excited to get started in the MIAA as the conference is to welcome them.

“Overall, for a number of years top to bottom, I think the MIAA is the best conference in Division II,” said Miller.

“From top to bottom the level of competition is better.”

The Mavericks have dominated their current conference for nearly a decade. They join the MIAA at a point where the quality of teams from best to worst is possibly as deep as it has ever been.

For example, in women’s cross country, the MIAA has three teams ranked in the Top 25, including Southern in the ninth spot. In football three others are in the Top 25 spearheaded by the ninth-ranked Bearcats of Northwest Missouri State, a team UNO beat on Sept. 8. Last season, the Mules of Central Missouri went all the way to the Final Four in men’s basketball after winning the MIAA Postseason Basketball Tournament as the second seed defeating fifth-seeded Pittsburg State.

“I am just so excited about the overall competition level, I love knowing that every day in every sport if you don’t play your best game you could get beat,” said Miller.

One aspect of the addition that many people sometimes overlook is the impact on recruiting. It is no secret that part of recruiting is stealing away quality athletes from conference opponents and with a team from Nebraska joining the MIAA this opens the Omaha, Lincoln, Des Moines, IA., and Sioux Falls, SD pipelines.

“We are going to go after the recruits we want regardless of where they are from,” said Beard.

Miller seemed a bit more enthused at the prospect of the southern states opening up.

“Oh yeah, this is huge,” said Miller excitedly, “We could see more kids from Kansas City, St. Louis and even Oklahoma City get interested in our programs.”