A competition between the University of Indianapolis and Truman State University, called the Top Dog Challenge, will raise money for charity, according to a Twitter announcement during Homecoming. In his video about the challenge, University President Robert Manuel talked about the number of GLVC All-Sports Trophies that UIndy has won. According to GLVC.com, UIndy has held the trophy for eight straight years, the longest stretch in the trophy’s history. I am not sure that this is a positive thing for UIndy or the GLVC.
The way the All-Sports Trophy is tallied up is that each school gets points based on its finish in the GLVC. There are 13 sports that count toward the trophy tally, according to the GLVC. Certain sports do not contribute to the tally, such as wrestling, because not enough schools have those sports, according to the GLVC website.
Last year, UIndy scored 147 points and won the trophy, while the University of Southern Indiana scored 109 and came in second. That 38-point difference is rather large, which may not be a good thing for UIndy or the conference.
Parity, the idea that all participating teams are on an equal or close-to-equal level, with no obvious winner, is one of the most important attributes in all of athletics. Without parity, competition has little point.
When a team is overwhelmingly dominant, parity is gone, and with it goes the excitement of winning and the significance of a trophy like the All-Sports Trophy. That 38-point difference from first to second place means that even without its two most successful GLVC sports last year, women’s soccer and men’s basketball, UIndy still would have won the trophy with breathing room.
The parity of the All-Sports Trophy is gone when a school the size of UIndy can dominate the biggest prize in a conference for so many consecutive years. This is especially worrisome for the GLVC, when its most dominant school, UIndy, keeps growing in size. This is a clear signal that change needs to happen.
This legacy of winning benefits UIndy in the short term: it brings in higher level recruits, who in turn strengthen the quality of the teams. The cycle of dominance keeps spiraling upward.
But what happens to the conference when one team wins a third of its conference championships, as UIndy has done in the 2019-2020 and 2018-2019 years? Do teams such as USI leave and go to a conference that is not so top loaded, where they might have the ability to win the conference’s greatest prize? If this happened, the conference would lose funding because it would have fewer teams or would have to bring in teams to replace those it had lost.
Would the GLVC bring in better schools to replace those at the bottom? If the GLVC decided to do this, it would upset those who value the historical side of sports and love to see certain teams compete, even if one team blows out the other by 70 points.
All of this raises the question of whether Ulndy should move on from the GLVC. I do not think that is what needs to happen, but something does need to change. From second to third place in last year’s competition for the All-Sports Trophy there was a difference of only five points. This closer competition would result in the trophy having some more meaning.
Schools with high levels of success have moved on from the GLVC, such as Bellarmine University, which moved up to Division I. I do not think this is the route UIndy should take, but some form of change is needed in the conference to increase parity.
While the Top Dog challenge is a great way to celebrate Homecoming and bring back some of the competition between schools that has been lost due to COVID-19, it is sad to think that this might be the only way Truman could compete with UIndy.