The Horizon League’s losing PR battle and the bylaw that shouldn’t exist

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This is probably the last thing I’m going to say about this, since it’s pretty clear that the Horizon League has essentially washed its hands of the entire situation. And that in an of itself should tell you a lot. UIC will continue to make an effort to wage a an all-out PR war on its ban on post-season play, but at the end of the day, it will be all for not.

Want to know why I know this? Because of where the conference is right now, and it sure isn’t thinking about UIC. It’s thinking about the tourney games in Indianapolis.

At least that’s what I see. The Horizon League, a day after announcing UIC’s ban (and I mean LITERALLY the day after), had commissioner Julie Roe Lach out at member schools selling the Indianapolis experience to fans during halftime interviews. And it just so happened that one of those chinwags took place on Friday night at Cleveland State…who was playing UIC…

In any normal year, sure, this makes sense. But when you have a departing school hammering you (using the third-largest media market in the U.S. to do it, I might add), this looked as a tone deaf as you can possibly imagine. Maybe more.

Add to that mess is the only pro-conference piece we’ll probably see in this whole thing: an article from the Indianapolis Star, not from David Woods (who’s usually on the HL beat), but Gregg Doyel. I’ll save you the time of reading it, because all it was was basically thrashing UIC for the bylaw used to nuke them, which apparently was passed in 2013 with a big assist from UIC’s then-chancellor.

The narrative was simple: Rules are rules, and student-athletes should be mad at their own school. The Horizon League just was following their bylaws. No contrition. No indication that this bullshit bylaw should be changed in any way. Just telling student-athletes to deal with it.

Incidentally, I watched the movie Dodgeball again over the weekend, and I couldn’t help but to lend special attention to when the main villain, Ben Stiller’s antagonist White Goodman yelling, “What’s a bylaw?”

Oddly enough, I had that scene in my head a lot during the week after the UIC decision, even before I knew Dodgeball would be on TV.

Therein lies the disconnect between what should happen (repeal the bylaw) versus what it looks like will actually happen (nothing gets changed). Because of that disconnect, the conference can go ahead and conduct business as usual like nothing happened, bot to mention that when it does come up, they can go with the line that it was a decision of the Board of Directors.

I should mention the chair of that board is the president of Northern Kentucky, who wasn’t even in the league when the bylaw was passed…and also looked into joining the MVC themselves…

The bylaw isn’t a deterrent, either. Ask Loyola-Chicago. Or Valpo.

UIC isn’t blameless, of course, as it could have held off like Valpo did until after all the championships were done. And they were clearly naive in thinking their soon-to-be-former conference colleagues would do them a solid, specifically citing the pandemic as a mitigating circumstance.

And, as I mentioned at the beginning of this diatribe, the PR blitz UIC is putting on will, at the end of the day, amount to essentially nothing, given that the conference has moved on and has no problem with looking bad in a media market that it will no longer have a footprint in (no matter how large). The remaining league members have also decided it was okay to burn a potential non-conference opponent AND, considering the apparent willingness to keep this ridiculous by law in place, think they won’t get done the same way if they leave.

Or, at least, they think they’ll be less naive than UIC and find a way around it.

Rules are runs, but bad rules obviously exist. This is a really bad one. Get rid of it already. It’s probably too late for UIC, but member schools can at least save themselves the possibility of getting treated the same way in the future. Otherwise, the idea of a conference focused totally on student-athletes looks like a complete facade.

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