College sports conferences don’t make any sense any damn more. Texas and Oklahoma are gonna play South Carolina and Vanderbilt every year, UCLA and USC are joining the damn Big Ten, which means they’ll play Big Ten schools Rutgers and Maryland, Kansas and Kansas State will not play Nebraska or Missouri anymore but might get Colorado back and will definitely get UCF and BYU in the near future, The best golfer is a black guy, the best rapper is a white guy, the tallest guy in the NBA is Chinese, the Swiss hold the America’s Cup, France is accusing the U.S. of arrogance, Germany doesn’t want to go to war, and the three most powerful men in America are named “Bush”, “Dick”, and “Colon.” Need I say more?
Sorry. When I get going it’s hard for me to stop. But there must be a reckoning – and this one can’t come out of Athens, Georgia. We all understand why it is this way, I’ve had midwits on Reddit tell me over and over again that it’s about money, as if any of us were under any different impression. It’s Fox, it’s Disney, it’s a desire for a consolidated television product that guarantees marquee games each week – and while that is all well and good for Lincoln Riley and whatever the name of the guy who coaches UCLA at the moment, and it’s been providing dividend after dividend for the power football programs in my native Kansas City area – We Kansas fans love our Big XII doormat status and look forward to our away games in Utah, and the Missouri fans love the slow recognition that their primary value in the SEC has shifted from “Will get the SEC network on to cable packages in St. Louis” to “Tomato Can for the actual power SEC teams.” – It is completely senseless for basically everyone else.
What of the non-revenue olympic sports? The football programs understand that they have to go play at the Bounce House in Orlando because it’s the only way we at Kansas and Kansas State can keep our collective College Football Playoff aspirations alive. But what of the talented tennis player from Great Bend who gets a scholarship to K-State with no intention of playing professionally, why should they have to go to Provo? Why should they need to take hours-long airplane voyages to Ohio and West Virginia? What of the collective collegiate spirit of the Kansas City metropolitan area? Shouldn’t those matter just as well?
I’m daring to say yes, they do matter, and I, along with my business partner Mike, with whom I had the idea driving in my car the other day, have a solution:
Introducing: The Tank 7 Collegiate Athletics Conference
The Tank 7 is a new college athletics conference intended to return regional sensibility to intercollegiate sports in the Kansas City metropolitan area. The Tank 7 would allow the College Football Playoff dreams in Lawrence, Manhattan, and Columbia to remain as feasible as they are now while allowing for the athletes and fans of those sports not burdened by the exigence of making Rupert Murdoch and whoever replaced Bob Iger more money to cut down on travel times and play more exciting games against regional, historical foes.
The Tank 7 will be Kansas City’s college athletic conference, named for the signature beer of the signature brewery of the Paris of the Plains. As the name states, the league will require seven members, and as the mission of the conference states, these seven members will need to be local to the Kansas City metropolitan area. Bids for these members, and explanations for their inclusion, are to follow:
Member One, and the most reasonable, as the only NCAA Division I collegiate athletics program in Kansas City, Missouri, is the University of Missouri – Kansas City. The ‘Roos may not be a powerhouse in athletics nor bring in significant TV revenue, but I feel that their inclusion as the First Member of the Tank 7 is a rhetorical statement, that this conference is based entirely in the mission of regional coherence in college sports in the Kansas City Metropoplitan Area.
Member Two, as the second closest in proximity in Division I, bolstered by their satellite campuses in Overland Park and KCK, is Kansas.
Member Three will be Kansas State. While their Manhattan campus’s distance from Kansas City is about equal to that of Member Four’s main campus, their Olathe satellite campus brings them slightly closer and thus gives them very slight priority in that they’re Member Three and not Member Four only.
Member Four is Missouri, naturally. Missouri is only about a mile closer to the Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City than it is to the Annheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis, but their primary natural rival is in this conference, and they’ll be joining the only other University of Missouri school in NCAA Division I.
These are more or less, the Core Four or the Tank 7. They are the most natural, the four NCAA Division I universities whose nearest major metropolitan area is Kansas City.
From there, where do we go?
I will admit that the number 7 in Tank 7 has hamstrung us here a little bit. There is not exactly another Division I school that’s in most obvious proximity to Kansas City, but I think this will allow us to use the creativity that this city gives us.
The closest by mileage is Missouri State University in Springfield, which is 169 miles away from the Boulevard Brewery. That’s closer than anyone else, but it’s only about twenty miles closer than other schools like Creighton, Nebraska-Omaha, and Drake. Those, however, would be more naturally situated in other metropolitan areas, and this imagined situation does more or less imply that there would be similar regional non-revenue sport conferences that crop up around food service-based products in other metropolitan areas. Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska-Omaha, Creighton, along with the Iowa Division I schools, Drake, Iowa State, Iowa, and UNI, will likely either form around the regional base of Sioux City, or alternatively rope in the four Dakota DI schools plus the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and create the Hy-(Twel)Vee conference around Des Moines, for example. Regardless, outside of Missouri State, none of those would fit better in the Tank 7 than in the Hy-(Twel)Vee or even the reduced Sioux City conference (Likely the Tyson 7).
Missouri State would not really be a natural fit anywhere other than the Tank 7, though they are about as close in proximity to Tulsa, Oklahoma as they are to Kansas City. The other regional conference they’d be in relative proximity to would be one which takes Wichita State, the four Oklahoma DI schools (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Tulsa, and Oral Roberts), and the Easternmost Arkansas schools (Arkansas, Central Arkansas, Arkansas-Little Rock). The big thing (and I hate it when politics and money stuff comes into it) that would probably keep Missouri State out of that conference is that it would make most sense for that conference to be called the Sonic Route 4+4 Conference, after the Sonic restaurant’s Route 44 sized beverage, and for the conference to be based in Oklahoma City. It would be capped at eight teams for the sake of the brand name, and it’d have to fall to the whims of the desires of the Oklahoma City-headquartered Sonic restaurant, as the bulk of the conference is either in Oklahoma (OU, OSU, Tulsa, Oral Roberts) or Greater Cultural Oklahoma (Wichita State). Were it based around Tulsa rather than Oklahoma City, they might have a better chance.
The Arkansas-based company Wal-Mart, undeniably, has more money and sway, so if they were to sponsor an Arkansas-specific conference centered around Little Rock, including all five Arkansas DI schools instead of just Arkansas, UALR, and UCA (specifically adding Arkansas State in Jonesboro and University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, both of which I think in a Sonic Route 4+4 world will end up in the Federal Six-press conference based around Memphis with the University of Memphis, Arkansas State, UAPB, and the three northern Mississippi DI schools of Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Mississippi Valley The schools in the southern half of Mississippi would end up in the Smoothie King 12 (ounce) conference based around New Orleans), they likely wouldn’t be subject to the eight-team cap necessitated by the Sonic Route 44 sponsorship and could join what would be the Wal-Mart Ten in that case.
The trouble there is that I’ve mostly, to this point, based this idea around food/beverage companies tying the size of the conference in with one of their slogans or promotions (I know that Federal Express isn’t a food/beverage company, but they’re kind of stuck in an AAC problem because you could very easily slot the four Nashville DI schools in with MTSU, Tennessee Tech, and UT-Chattanooga in a Jack Daniels No.7 conference, which for obvious reasons would have to be capped at 7 teams and not include Memphis, which is based in a large enough city that could serve as the regional center of one of these. UT-Knoxville in this situation might have to latch on to a conference based around Charlotte, though I haven’t thought that far ahead) Therefore, having a 8-team capped Sonic Route 4+4 conference at the cost of Arkansas’ schools staying together (and making a more natural spot for Missouri State), would be the most likely situation to take place here.
Their inability to fit anywhere else would make Missouri State, though they’re a bit out of the way, Member Five of the Boulevard Tank 7 Conference.
Members Six and Seven are still to be defined, but there are some solid potential applicants:
By obligation from Boulevard Brewery’s ownership at Duvel Moortgat Brewery in Belgium, a possible entrant could be the University of Antwerp. The Belgians will soon be used to structural changes in their sports, as the Belgian Pro League and Dutch Eredivisie are maybe sort of potentially rumored to merge sometime in the near future. Antwerp can either have teams travel across the world all of the time (with a very strict cancellation-and-forfeiture-only policy if their flights are late) or open up a satellite campus in the fertile, unbroached academic territory of Independence, Missouri. Our hands may be tied here with their inclusion, it all basically depends upon whether this 170+ year old Belgian institution desires to play Tennis or Volleyball against Mizzou.
There could also be something of a promotion/relegation spot reserved for a sub-DI program within the conference’s regional footprint for any sport. My idea here is to have a tournament, I’m not sure if it’d be better to have one which features only the best team from each division in a small tournament or every team within the footprint playing in a huge tournament for that last slot. The first one would be more feasible – For example, for a 2022 tournament in men’s soccer, it’d have four teams: The DII representative would be Drury University, NAIA would be Columbia College, NJCAA Division I would be Kansas City Kansas Community College, and NJCAA Division II I believe would be Metropolitan CC – Penn Valley. There is no NCAA Division III institution in the Tank 7 footprint. Seed by division strength, single elimination, and there we go. We could hold it at Children’s Mercy Park or the new downtown Current stadium that’ll be there in a few years.
The second, where every college team in the KC metro would play for the lone spot, would be more entertaining, though quite unwieldy, likely only held at campus sites until the final. Then, at the end of each year, the former non-NCAA DI team occupying that Tank 7 pro/rel slot would play the winner of the tournament for that spot, like they do in Germany (We’d have to put this one at Arrowhead or the Speedway to accommodate the amount of attendance this would bring out of the good people of Kansas City). The benefit here is that I would have fun watching this tournament, also it’d bring better community spirit to Kansas City, and we could all have fun cheering on our teams.
Another fringe candidate is Sporting Kansas City, who, if you’ll remember, said they’d start fielding non-MLS sports teams under the “Sporting Kansas City” moniker when they changed their name to that in 2011. I think they specifically mentioned lacrosse and rugby, but that never materialized. Most people in the Kansas City metropolitan area spend our days in constant, impotent, abject fury that Sporting Kansas City did not add these extra teams to justify their new name, and the Tank 7 collegiate athletics conference could offer them the opportunity to pay for their sins.
Due to the bylaws of the Tank 7 collegiate athletics conference, Sporting KC would need to start hosting collegiate classes of some sort in order to have the right to host collegiate athletics – I imagine there’s some land out in Western KCK that they could turn into a school building, you could get Peter Vermes to teach something in his free time, maybe offer driver’s ed, hire Joe Bush to teach MLS history, that sort of thing – Then we can have the promise of Sporting Kansas City as a field hockey, or volleyball, or rugby, or something else outfit realized. They could probably even drop the Swope Park Rangers into the Tank 7 Men’s Soccer Conference.
The Tank 7 has immense potential to return regional sensibility to collegiate athletics in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area, and it will happen if we believe that it will happen. Much like the beer itself, the Tank 7 will be both strong and tasteful, it will give Kansas City something that we can proudly puff our chests out to the rest of the country over, and it will knock everyone on their asses surprisingly quickly and effectively.
I apologize about the REM reference. You’re very lucky you didn’t get a Los Campesinos! reference two sentences later. For more updates delivered RIGHT TO YOUR INBOX subscribe to the Substack.