MAC Media Day 2022: A Recap of Sorts
Many, broad-ranging subjects discussed at MAC Media Day. Let's try to unpack a good percentage of the topic(s) on everybody's mind(s).
Cleveland’s House of Blues played host for Tuesday’s annual Mid-American Conference Media Day event. The 12 teams were represented by 36 players and coaches to preview the season for the media, and start sniffing the start of the season.
Dr. Jon Steinbrecher gave his 20-minute opening statement, then fielded a few questions from the media. Then the media and team breakouts took place for a couple of hours, and then it was time for everybody to hit the road and head back home.
I went around and talked to a bunch of coaches, players, and representatives across the MAC, but I still feel like I didn’t get to talk to enough.
No matter, it was a busy couple of hours, so let’s get to some of what was talked about during MAC’s hurry-up talking season.
MAC Media Day 2022: Quotes, Notes, Observations
Preseason Media Poll: NIU vs. Miami Championship, Eastern Michigan Picked 5th in Division
As per tradition, MAC Media Day kicked off with the media’s preseason predictions for the year.
Eastern Michigan, the only MAC program to never make it to the MAC Championship game, was picked to finish fifth in the MAC West division while most of the acclaim went to reigning MAC champions Northern Illinois (11 votes to win the MAC West, 9 to win league championship).
Miami OH is the heavy favorite to win the MAC East with 20 first-place votes, followed by 3 for Kent State and 1 for Bowling Green.
Northern Illinois, 122 pts. (11 first-place votes)
Toledo, 120 pts. (9)
Central Michigan, 112 pts. (4)
Western Michigan, 56 pts.
Eastern Michigan, 52 pts.
Ball State, 42 pts.
Miami OH, 139 pts. (20 1st-place votes)
Kent State, 116 pts. (3)
Bowling Green, 71 (1)
MAC Championship winner: Northern Illinois (9), Toledo (6), Miami (5), Central Michigan (4)
No, I didn’t have a vote in the poll this year. I don’t really have too strong of an opinion of the media’s votes outside of this: whoever picked BGSU to win the East is very brave.
I also have NIU and Miami as my West and East favorites, but things get much muddier in my picks than the rest of the media’s.
The media’s expecting the West to be a two-team race between NIU and Toledo with CMU as the dark-horse favorite; there’s not much separating the bottom-half of the West with WMU/EMU/Ball State.
The East may be more ripe for parity than the West. Miami’s the heavy favorite, but Kent State’s respected. After that, pfftt?!
Recognizing Fred Reed
I asked Chris Creighton a lot of questions about the team, but not before I asked about how the team is handling the loss of one of their beloved coaches. Fred Reed, 54, died unexpectedly in May.
Said Creighton on Reed, “It was and is a tragedy. I’ve never gone through something like that... Coach Reed was, first, a good friend. This was going to be our seventh season together with his family, and he’s the pass game coordinator of our defense and was in charge of our secondary and other facets of our program. He was such an awesome human being.”
“Fred Reed’s standard of excellence on and off the field was so high and the guys knew that he believe in them, and believe that they could live and play at that standard, and they’d rise to it. All that to say: I just really miss him. We all do.”
Creighton added that his staff room is named after Reed, with a plaque hanging in there as well. Between those and the walk-on addition of his Reed’s son Amar’e, entering his freshman year out of high school, the team gets to still ‘keep his spirit around’ so to speak.
Filling in on the coaching staff is Taver Johnson, 50, who has coached since 1994. He’s not a first-timer in the MAC, but it would be his first time coaching in the MAC since 2006 when he served as the Miami RedHawks’ defensive coordinator for two years.
Johnson, the EMU defensive pass game coordinator and safeties coach, is no stranger to Reed, either.
“(Johnson) had a relationship with coach Reed, and he’s an accomplished, mature coach that knows that we’re going to be celebrating coach Reed and talking about him, and that’s not going to offend him or step on his toes,” Creighton said. “He’s such a great person and coach as well so that part has worked out as well as it could.”
Earlier in the day, commissioner Steinbrecher also addressed the loss of Reed.
“I want to recognize coach Reed for what he meant to so many student-athletes and fellow coaches, and ask that we continue to keep his wife Lashannon, and children Khamara and Amar’e in your thoughts. And incidentally, and on kind of a neat note, Amar’e will be begin his collegiate football career at Eastern Michigan this season.”
MAC Announces 3-Year Extension With Ford Field
The MAC will keep its championship games in Ford Field through 2024 after a negotiated extension was made.
“Since 2004 the (MAC) Championship game has been played at Ford Field in Detroit. I want to inform you that we have concluded a three-year extension with Ford Field to host the championship through the 2024 season,” Steinbrecher said. “The (MAC) is the only non-autonomous FBS conference to hold its conference championship at a neutral venue.”
Ford Field, the usual location for MAC Media Day, would’ve been a convenient spot to have this announcement, but Ford Field is actually hosting a concert for The Weeknd tonight.
As the nation’s only functioning FBS bus league, and as a league that’s stayed consistent with its current 12-team membership for decades, there’s a real value for the MAC to keep its familiar faces and have them keep showing up to familiar places.
Is there a contingent of MAC fans that would rather have on-campus championship games? Yes, of course. Honestly, that sounds awesome, and those games were awesome live. But name a MAC school that has the staff and infrastructure to host and accommodate the amount of national and local media that go to conference championship games in 2022 (doesn’t matter if they actually showed up to any regular season contest, either). Then there’s all the other traffic involved that schools would rather not be left with the responsibilities of.
Having the indoor facility in a very recognizable and very drivable (better for some than others, sure, but drivable nonetheless) destination for a championship game is a true value for the conference. A lot of that value, actually, stems from the longevity of this tradition — a word that wouldn’t be inaccurate in this case.
Conference Expansion: The MAC Will Continue to be Selective
If your question is: Will the MAC expand now that USC and UCLA are going to the Big Ten? The answer is easy. If the MAC wanted to respond to that news, then it would’ve already added schools more loosely to its league.
“When news of USC and UCLA moving to another league broke, I advised our membership to be patient, evaluate any information with a critical eye, and continue to look for opportunities,” Steinbrecher said. “And while much has been written or spoken about possible, new alignments of conferences, or suggested additions to various conferences, many, if not most, of those make no sense. In scanning the landscape of the FBS, there are very few pieces on board that bring additive value. Adding for the sake of adding members may bring some level of security, it may not bring any additional value to the membership.”
Currently, and still, the MAC has 12 full members. The best of the 10 FBS conferences, as we look ahead to the future, are the Big Ten and SEC, which will have 16 teams each by 2025 (paperwork pending, but I digress). Large-sized conferences haven’t worked out before, but now times are different.
Steinbrecher said, “I am reminded that to date, no FBS conference of 16 members has been sustainable. Now, one difference this time is that the conferences with 16 members are the strongest economically, which was one of the factors dooming prior attempts. Are we heading into a consolidation of conferences into just a handful? I don’t know, I don’t believe so, but time will tell. What I do think, and feel strongly about is that the enterprise of intercollegiate athletics is a more robust and is more healthy when it has a number of vibrant, sound, and stable conferences, all filled with member institutions.”
Taylor Powell’s Top-Notch Spring
Three things that were repeatedly said about incoming transfer quarterback Taylor Powell, who joins EMU as a grad transfer from Troy (also prev.: Missouri):
He gets along with everybody,
He’s really smart,
And he’s incredibly accurate with the football.
Creighton said his completion percentage through the spring was the best that he’s coached.
“He’s not going to beat people with his feet. He’s going to beat people with his mind first, and he’s a super accurate quarterback. He completed 81% of his passes in spring ball which is as high as I’ve ever been around.”
Creighton’s Read: Team Needs the Practice Reps
Said the coach, “I really like our football team right now. Camp is going to be really important. We still have some areas that we have to sure-up, guys have to continue to step up. We need the practice time, overall as a football team for sure. But we have what it takes. It’s been a while, but I know what it feels like, and tastes like, and looks like, and I think we’ve got the right people. It’s really hard to do, but we’re going to go after being our best, and I think our best is pretty good.”
Jose Ramirez & Hassan Beydoun: A JUCO Transfer, and a Non-Preferred Walk-On
Of note I thought, were the kinds of players EMU brought along for the ride to Cleveland. A lot of players that came with their respective teams to Media Day were guys that have been with their squads since they signed out of high school.
But DE Jose Ramirez wasn’t that. The Florida-native recruit had his options out of high school, and ended up picking Arizona before he found himself playing junior college ball at Riverside C.C. in California.
“It benefited me a lot to see a different side of football, the side of football that isn’t all glory and it’s just not the D1 route,” Ramirez said. “The JUCO route just showed how you gotta go get it, stick as a team, and basically get it out the mud. Like, Hass, he has to get it out the mud. He had to work this way to get where he's at today.”
Hass, shorthand for Hassan Beydoun, is one of the rare leaders you’ll find on any football team at the FBS level. Beydoun was a sophomore student at EMU before he finally tried out for the team.
Beydoun played his high school ball at Dearborn HS, but didn’t receive any FBS scholarship offers.
Last year, Beydoun’s 1,015 receiving yards was the first four-digit performance by an EMU receiver since 2004, and returns after earning Second Team All-MAC recognition in 2021.
“The thing about Eastern that’s so nice is that they don’t treat scholarship [players] and walk-ons differently. They give everyone the open right to come play; if you can play, you’re going to play,” Beydoun said. “I just came in and had to prove myself and gain some confidence. I’d say that was the biggest thing is just playing confident. And then the rest was history.”
Old Friend Alert: WR Quian Williams
Quian Williams, former receiver for Eastern Michigan, showed up to represent his current team: Buffalo. In two playing seasons at EMU, Williams caught 76 passes for 983 yards with 8 TD. It shouldn’t be a surprise that he was quick to be an offensive leader for the Bulls last year: 64 catches, 835 yards, 2 TD.
Williams transferred to Buffalo in January 2021, but will be back at Rynearson Stadium on Sept. 24 for both EMU and Buffalo’s conference-opening battle.
“As soon as I saw it, I definitely kind of smiled a little bit because it’s going to fun,” Williams said. “But, we have to go through Maryland first, and we’ll get to Eastern when we get to Eastern, then the rest of the MAC and the rest of our schedule, so I’m really excited for this season.”
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