Parity in NCAA Division I
The GIST: Group of Five, mid-majors…whatever you call them, these smaller DI schools are rapidly catching up to their Power Five (er, Four?) competitors. Their pockets might not be as deep as those top dogs, but these squads have already laid out the parity party welcome mat.
The shining star: Mid-majors have seen lots of success on the non-revenue sports stage (looking at you, men’s soccer and men’s cross country), but last March they dominated on arguably the biggest college sports stage of all: men’s March Madness. Three of the Final Four squads — UConn, San Diego State, and Florida Atlantic — came from outside the Power Five.
- Historically, men’s basketball has been ruled by blue bloods. But with the Big East’s UConn beating the Mountain West’s San Diego State for the 2023 title, the court has never looked more level.
- To be fair, many consider hoops to have a Power Six, with the Big East and its perennial competitors added to the mix. But conferences are shifting by the day, there’s no telling what this landscape will be in the years to come.
The gridiron greats: With three of the Group of Five’s best — Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF — bouncing for the Big 12 this season, the FBS’ second-tier will be competing in a power vacuum…and Tulane looks primed to capitalize. They’re returning 13 starters from 2022’s roster, which clinched a statement Cotton Bowl dub over Heisman winner Caleb Williams’ USC Trojans.
- As for FCS ball, South Dakota State took their first championship by trouncing North Dakota State 45–21 in January — no small feat, considering North Dakota State owns nine of the 11 previous FCS ’ships. Goliath, conquered by David.
Iced out: In men’s ice hockey, non–Power Five schools have thrived since the ACC’s Boston College won in 2012: Eight mid-majors have claimed the last 10 titles. Quinnipiac sealed the 2023 deal, beating former powerhouse Minnesota 3–2 with a game-winner just 10 seconds into overtime for the school’s first-ever natty. Beauty.