Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Evil Politicians

I haven't cut the cord yet because I still want to watch live sports, but I recently signed up for Netflix. I found a few movies I hadn't seen, bing-watched some series that interested me, then started exploring the catalogue. They sure have a lot of documentary series on the Nazis. It reminds me of the old days when the History Channel was nicknamed the Nazi Channel because WWII made up a large part of its programming. This was before the History Channel morphed into the Swamp People and Ancient Aliens Channel.

There are so many documentaries on the Nazis because (a) a lot of them are made by Brits, and there's nothing of more importance to the Brits than the recent near-destruction of their country, and (b) while there are lots of examples of evil regimes throughout history, the scale of the crimes perpetrated by Hitler and his henchmen is unmatched.

What I find most interesting about these documentaries isn't Hitler, but those henchmen. In particular, I've pondered the motivations of three: Minister of Propoganda Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Party leader Martin Bormann, and Armaments Minister Albert Speer. Each did evil things but for different reasons. To describe each in a word, Goebbels was a zealot, Bormann was an opportunist, and Speer was a patriot. Goebbels was the only major Nazi to stay in the bunker with Hitler until the end. He and his wife murdered their five children before taking their own lives because they couldn't imagine life without National Socialism.

The documentaries indicate Bormann was interested only in increasing his own power. He fled the bunker and disappeared, apparently hoping to escape to South America. Although it was rumored that he did so, DNA testing in 1998 confirmed that he died while still in Berlin shortly after fleeing the bunker. He killed himself, not out of fanatic devotion to the cause, but because he was surrounded by Soviet troops and didn't want to be captured and tortured. Bormann wasn't just a war criminal, he also was an ordinary criminal who somehow spent less than a year in prison as an accomplice to a murder in 1923. Both Goebbels and Bormann surely would have been executed for their crimes if they had been captured alive.

Which brings us to Speer. He was captured alive and was not executed. He spent 20 years in prison then had 15 years as a free man. He apologized for his role in the Third Reich, wrote several books which sold very well, and supposedly made large anonymous donations to Jewish causes. I believe under different circumstances, Speer would have led a rather ordinary life, perhaps reaching old age as a respected member of some community. But he had the misfortune to be born in Germany just before the wars, the bad judgment to become pals with Hitler, and more bad judgment in accepting the role of Armaments Minister in 1942. His claim that he didn't know about the Holocaust is probably not true. At the very least, he had to know that slave labor was used to produce the armaments for which he was responsible, and those slaves suffered an extremely high mortality rate. But because he was a patriot, however misguided that seems now, he took the job and did it as well as he could.

So where am I going with this? I'm going to equate present-day politicians with these notorious Nazis. If you think that's outrageous, remember that the Nazis gained power after winning the most votes and Reichstag seats in the 1933 German election. To a great extent, whether Nazi or modern, politicians can be divided into the three categories of zealots, opportunists and patriots. Current-day American zealots include the neo-fascist Progressives on the left (Bernie) and the Bible thumpers on the right (Ted Cruz). Zealots only care about those who agree with them and everyone else is considered stupid. They are annoying, but at least you usually know where they stand. Opportunists such as the Clintons and The Donald are devious and in the grand scheme are probably more dangerous to liberty than zealots because they will do anything to advance their own power. If you can't help them satisfy their lust for power, they will squish you like a bug with no regrets.

Patriots who truly care about the nation and all its citizens are hard to find. Unfortunately it is impossible to get anything done in Washington because everything is colored by partisan politics. A patriot isn't going to accumulate enough power to get anything done because he or she can't make headway in a party primarily comprised of zealots and opportunists. House Speaker Paul Ryan might have been inclined to be a patriot, but he was lukewarm about it. Partisan Washington chewed him up and spat him out.

I'm a Libertarian because I don't think it makes sense to be anything else. But I also don't have any illusions that the political situation will swing toward liberty and free enterprise any time soon. Some of Trump's enactments lean in that direction, but the huge budget imbalance shows a serious lack of will by both major parties to recognize and address the central problem. At least the war criminal Speer had the decency to apologize for what he did. We will never hear apologies from the Clintons or The Donald for their counter-productive, unpatriotic behaviour.

Friday, May 25, 2018


When I loaded Blogger today to add a post to my personal photo site, I was greeted by this obnoxious notice: "European Union laws require you to give European Union visitors information about cookies used and data collected on your blog. In many cases, these laws also require you to obtain consent. As a courtesy, we have added a notice on your blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies, and other data collected by Google."

I don't give a damn what the European Union requires. I pity Google and other multinational companies that have to abide by silly requirements such as this from Europe, China, and whoever else decides that freedom is a bad thing.

I don't see the notice on my site. Maybe it only shows up if some poor wretch within the EU loads it. Anyway, if I figure out how to disable it I will.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


It astounds me how many of my relatives and friends really do not have a clue about financial management. The American educational system should take time out from socialist indoctrination to teach something about financial responsibilty. And Bernie should be required to attend. Anyway...

Recently I became executor of an estate, the primary asset of which is a brokerage account. The first three things I did once I got control of the account was sell everything (about 10 mutual funds and exchange-traded funds), buy T-bills, and remove the financial advisor from the account. Since the plan is to pay out the account in six months, it was inappropriate to remain invested in equity funds, which can decrease in value. I dismissed the advisor because the estate doesn't need to pay a 1% advisory fee for T-bills. In looking at transactions done by the advisor in previous months, I felt even more secure in my decision. They screwed up badly selecting a supposed low-risk fund that managed to lose 50% of its value one day, then they spent the next month making lots of trades to rebalance the portfolio. Even though it was a fee-only advisor, they racked up considerable trading costs in a short time.

About 25 years ago, a friend of mine just starting out on her own as an advisor wanted to add me to her account list just to inflate the amount of assets under management. She wouldn't charge a fee and I would still control my account. She was putting clients into mutual funds, nothing exotic. After a few weeks she "fired" me because I was options trading, which didn't fit with the investment style she was pitching to prospective clients.

Ten years ago after I had my current house built, the salesman for the builder found a new job selling investments and tried to cold call me. He tried to ask me questions about my financial situation and my only reply was, "It's taken care of."

One of my favorite TV shows is American Greed on CNBC. Often the cautionary tales involve a supposed financial expert who takes the money entrusted to him and blows it on gambling and hookers, perpetuating the scheme by sending out phony statements showing spectacular results.

All of the above illustrate why I am not going to trust someone else to manage my finances. If I was 30 years old and had $100,000 saved up (which when I was 30, I did not), I would a open a brokerage account at Vanguard and invest in just a few issues. I would open a brokerage account rather than a mutual fund account so i could buy ETFs instead of mutual funds, and T-bills & CDs rather than bond funds. Vanguard ETFs have lower fees than the corresponding mutual funds, and I buy T-bills and CDs because I have a deep mistrust of bond funds. A $100,000 portfolio might look something like this: $10,000 in cash, $15,000 in a six-month T-bill or CD ladder, $50,000 in the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI), $20,000 in the Vanguard All-World Except US ETF (VEU), and $5,000 for 38 shares of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). For the ETFs and JNJ, I would select the option to reinvest dividends.

Structuring the account this way accomplishes several things:

  • It teaches the mechanics of buying ETFs, stock, T-bills and CDs.
  • The ETFs spread the investment across thousands of US and international companies.
  • The cash and the ladder provide an emergency fund.
  • Buying a few shares of JNJ is an introduction to the world of dividend investing.

I would add money to the account as often as I could. I wouldn't look at the account every day. I would ignore the news. Selling on a downturn is the stupidest thing anyone can do. I lost a lot of money on paper in 2007-08. But then the market turned around and I got it all back, and then some. You can't predict the downturn, you can't predict the recovery, and neither can the so-called experts.

So how often should you look at an account? If you set up a T-bill/CD ladder, you'll have to go in every few months to reinvest proceeds as the bonds mature. At the same time you can consider adding to your other positions if you have built up some cash.

I don't like bond funds, particularly now, because they lose value when interest rates rise (interest rate risk). I've been wrong for the past 10 years until just recently, but I think rates will come off historic lows and return to "normal," which in my mind is short-term rates of 4-5% (currently 2%). When you buy short-term individual issues, there is no interest rate risk. If interest rates continue to rise, you get higher rates each time you reinvest. Once rates approach 5%, I would think about stretching out the terms to 2 years or 5 years. I still reminisce about getting a 5-year Treasury bond yielding 7.7% in the mid-90s.

In my example starting at age 30, as I got older I would capitalize on experience with JNJ by adding other dividend stocks. The only investment advice I pay for is the Dividend Investor newsletter from Morningstar. You might be able to find it at your local library. One stock that newsletter recommends is Realty Income (O), which invests in real estate. "O" might own the Walgreens location that you drive by every day.

In the real world, do I follow the advice to my younger self by owning just a few things and holding them forever? No, not really, but I have owned JNJ shares for more than 20 years. Managing your own finances should be guided by a clear strategy, but that doesn't mean it will easy paint-by-the-numbers. It is a learning process, which is why many feel overwhelmed, give up, and just turn it over to a supposed expert. I know this happens, but I find it hard to understand. Your financial position determines your quality of life in retirement. How do you turn that over to a stranger? At the very least, if you do hire someone, read whatever they send you, don't be afraid to ask questions, and don't be afraid to ask followup questions.

Disclaimer: The above is presented only as an example. Your circumstances will vary and you are responsible for your own life. I do have a Vanguard brokerage account and own VEU, JNJ and O, along with lots of other stuff that I accumulated by not trusting some else to take care of it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Responsibility without power

Perhaps it is ironic that as someone with a federal pension based on 25 years of service with a federal agency, I identify myself as a Libertarian. Maybe registering to vote as a Libertarian all these years was a defense mechanism against the soul-crushing experience of being a nameless cog in the bureaucracy.

One experience in particular stands out. During my career I worked in regional and field locations, only occasionally serving on detail at HQ in Washington, DC. The first two of those four-month HQ stints weren't too bad as I was working on projects where I didn't require much direction from above and where I felt there was actual accomplishment at the end. However, on the third detail starting in August 2010, I was designated as the liaison between my division and the IT division, which was developing an update to the most important software package used by our field personnel. Very quickly I discovered that I had absolutely no power over IT division personnel and its contractors. That is, unless you consider being annoying to be a power. My job was to pester the IT people endlessly about their status in regard to various deadlines, and report back to my bosses about why those various deadlines were not being met. I had responsibility to keep the project on track, but no way to compel the people I was dealing with to do a damn thing. My predecessor still had a permanent job within the office and helped me get started, but in short order he made it clear he was busy with his new responsibilities and it was my headache now.

As November and the holidays approached, it concerned me that my temporary bosses hadn't given me a definite end date for my detail, so eventually I told them that my permanent bosses needed me back in my field office, which may or may not have been true. I'm not embarrassed to say I was happy to get out of there after 3.5 months even though it meant some other poor sap got stuck with the impossible task of keeping the IT people on track.

I'm not complaining about my agency, which is actually one of the better places to work in the federal government if you believe the surveys. I think it is just the nature of a bureaucracy. What are the consequences of missing a deadline? If you are an IT specialist in a private company, you are going to get fired eventually. If you are an IT specialist in a government agency, you'll probably get promoted. (I saw it happen.)

After that experience, I never went back to DC on detail. I didn't volunteer and they didn't ask for me, so I may have burned a bridge there. I officially retired 2.5 years later, although I worked part-time for the next several years on projects unrelated to what I described above. Now as a retiree, I get frustrated when dealing with federal government employees, whether it's the personnel department at my old agency, OPM regarding my pension, or Social Security regarding something as simple as changing my mother's mailing address. It has been my experience that each of these do a bad job dealing with the public because they have minimal incentive to do a good job. But there are those Progressives in our country who want to create a socialist utopia where the government has even more power. Do they really believe that the employees who will be needed to serve in the new bureaucracies will have an incentive to provide great customer service? I don't think it is out of line to say that these people learned nothing from that great socialist experiment called the Soviet Union.

Yes there are private companies that do bad things to their customers. The company run by the evil Mark Zuckerberg comes to mind. Now Zuckerberg is reaping the whirlwind for his nefarious deeds. Worst case, Facebook becomes increasingly irrelevant, the stock price plunges, and Zuckerberg gets thrown in jail. (Or maybe we should call that "best case.") But what happens when the IRS misbehaves? Maybe one or two senior appointees lose their jobs, but for the most part the nameless minions march on, making life miserable for middle-class Americans. None of those minions have the power to make any real changes, even if they wanted to. So they put in their years trying to keep their heads down, compartmentalizing their work life and their private life, and making it out at the end with a government pension. Yes please, we want more of these people and not so many in private industry.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Life as a mid major

The annual musical chair exercise for college basketball coaches has begun. As usual any mid-major coach with a few years of success is likely to be involved, case in point Craig Smith of the University of South Dakota. After four years, he is moving on to Utah State. Terms haven't been announced yet, but it seems he will get at least a modest raise from his current $275,000, and the Mountain West is probably a better conference than the Summit League. A few years of success there and he will move up the food chain again.

It bothers a lot of people that the highest-paid state employees in most states are college football or basketball coaches. As a sports fan, it even bothers me. But sports is zero sum, for every win there is a loss. Smith's predecessor at Utah State didn't move up the food chain, he was fired. His record wasn't awful, it was merely mediocre, which wasn't good enough.

High risk, high reward. As a Libertarian I should love it. But now one of my schools has to find a new coach, in all likelihood poaching from some school lower on the food chain.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Basketball without politics (hopefully)

Just nine years ago, the first live nationwide TV transmission of a sporting event originating in South Dakota occurred. It was the Summit League women's basketball final from the Sioux Falls Arena on an ESPN channel, followed by the men's final. Since that time, Sioux Falls has become something of a destination for March tournaments, culminating yesterday with two national TV games in different sports on the same day. It started with the CBS broadcast of the NCAA Division II men's basketball championship from the Sanford Pentagon followed by the NCAA Division I West Regional hockey final on ESPN2 from the T. Denny Sanford PREMIER Center.

(Yes, it is somewhat confusing to have both facilities named Sanford. The 12,000-seat PREMIER Center is owned by the city, which sold naming rights to PREMIER bank, whose primary owner is T. Denny Sanford, who is the benefactor of Sanford Health Systems, which owns and operates the 3,500-seat Pentagon. Clear?)

With these two new facilities, the Sioux Falls Sports Authority has been aggressive in bidding on college tournaments, mostly basketball but also hockey, wrestling and volleyball. There were nine college tournaments this year, eight basketball and one hockey. The four mainstays from year to year are the D2 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournaments (men and women) at the Pentagon and the D1 Summit League tournaments (men and women) at the PREMIER Center. The sports authority won NCAA bids this year for the D2 Elite 8 (both men and women) and the D1 men's hockey regional. The D2 regional basketball tournaments are usually hosted by the top seed, and this year the Augustana women hosted at their on-campus venue, the Elmen Center.

Which brings us to politics. The ninth tournament was the result of the last-minute move of the NAIA D2 men's tournament from Branson, MO to the Pentagon. Last year the College of the Ozarks adopted a policy barring its teams from playing in games if opposing players protested during the national anthem by kneeling or sitting. Never mind that I've never heard of an NAIA basketball player engaging in such a protest. It's a solution to a problem that didn't exist, but fine, they can adopt whatever policy they want. But College of the Ozarks also happened to be the host school for the national tournament, and asked the NAIA to adopt a similar policy that would bar teams from playing if their players took part in such protests. When the NAIA refused, the college withdrew as host school. All this came to a head last November and the NAIA chose the Pentagon as its new tournament site for 2018 and 2019.

A few years ago North Carolina passed a so-called "bathroom bill" which led the NCAA to pull tournaments out of that state for several years until the law was revised. South Dakota is a conservative state, and a similar bill was passed by the Legislature two years ago. The City of Sioux Falls was strongly against it, but that matters not to legislators from outlying areas, nor to the NCAA. Even though the City of Charlotte had an ordinance on the "correct" side of the issue, they were still punished by the NCAA and the NBA for the transgressions of their state legislature. Fortunately South Dakota's governor had the wisdom to veto the bill here, not because he's a progressive defender of transgender rights (which he most certainly is not) but because he thought it would cause more problems than it solved. I completely agreed with his very practical reasoning.

Although it was not stated, one of those problems would have been the loss to Sioux Falls of all these NCAA events and probably most of the non-country concerts at the new venues. The PREMIER Center's debt service comes from the revenue it produces, of course, and loss of these events could turn this 12,000-seat arena into a white elephant. If not a direct drain on city funds, it would at least be a much lower source of city revenue than expected.

Last year the state did pass a bill protecting religious freedom for adoption organizations. Once again this was a solution to a problem that did not exist, but this time the governor signed it. This ridiculous little bill had NO effect on anything in the real world, and fortunately did not draw the ire of the NCAA. There were some insignificant repurcussions as the State of California and the People's Republic of San Francisco barred employees from official travel to South Dakota and other such backwaters. As if neo-fascist "progressives" ever venture into flyover country anyway.

If I'm counting correctly, 88 college teams played 84 tournament games in Sioux Falls this year. (The D2 national champion Central Missouri women were our guests for six games in two tournaments spread over two weeks.) Add 16 high school teams playing 24 games in the state "AA" tournaments, and you have 104 teams playing 108 games in Sioux Falls in March 2018. Then you have the regular tenants which are the Skyforce (NBA G League) at the Pentagon, Stampede (US Hockey League) at the PREMIER Center, and the Storm (Indoor Football League) at the PREMIER Center. Sporting events and concerts are important sources of revenue for Sioux Falls city government, and as a city taxpayer I hope our politicians at the state level don't manage to screw it up. Yes, progressives can be intolerant and dictatorial, but bathroom laws and national anthem rules create problems where none existed and lead to ridiculous and unnecessary confrontations. Let's fight about free enterprise instead.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

California is soooo smart

Businesses have to comply with all sorts of disclosure requirements, none more onerous than those required by The Moonbean State, aka California. Any product that contains any substance that might possibly maybe under some circumstances be hazardous requires a disclosure. This is the one for motor vehicles:

WARNING: Motor vehicles contain fuel, oils and fluids, battery posts, terminals and related accessories which contain lead and lead compounds and other chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm. These chemicals are found in vehicles, vehicle parts and accessories, both new and as replacements. When being serviced, these vehicles generate used oil, waste fluids, grease, fumes and particulates, all known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm.

What would we do if the State of California weren't there to tell us that motor vehicles contain oil and other stinky stuff that might be hazardous? Oh thank you Governor Brown, thank you!

OK you say, that's not so bad. Vehicles are big dangerous things and what's wrong with a few disclosures? But California requires it on all sorts of products. According to Amazon, this is the required warning for electrical cords:

WARNING: The wires of this product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. Wash hands after handling.

Ridiculous, but what's the harm? It's a trap that allows California "consumer" activists to blackmail unwitting businesses that violate these requirements, even unintentionally. These warnings do nothing to protect consumers and do everything to promote the growth of the nanny state and line the pockets of class action attorneys.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

ESPN does it again

The first Summit League championship of the day is done with South Dakota State beating South Dakota 65-50 in the women's game on ESPNU. I consider myself neutral as I have a degree from both schools and actually drew a few (small) paychecks from both. I wish USD had played better, but SDSU earned the win. The same two schools face off on ESPN2 in the men's championship game tonight.

While it is nice to have local games on ESPN, I wish they would respect the region with their choice of TV crew, particularly the analyst. On ESPNU today they had some supposedly famous coach of whom I have never heard. She didn't seem to have anything to say beyond, "They are very familiar with each other" (which is obvious) and "They don't like each other" (which I think is a reach). She pronounced "coyotes" correctly (two syllables) for most of the game but lapsed into a few "coyotees" (three syllables) toward the end. In case an ESPN exec stumbles on this post, here is what you should do for this tournament: Hire Kelly Stewart of Midco Sports. Although she is only two years removed from playing for USD and is probably 40 years younger than the "famous" analyst, she would have had far more insight on these two teams than someone parachuting in from wherever. In fact, let her do the men's game also. She knows about that too. And as a former Coyote she knows local pronunciation.

Midco has grown into a great local sports operation and in recent years has done a good job during the first three days of the tournament, but every year they get big-footed by ESPN for the finals. There really are people out here who can do the job.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


The CNN documentary on the Patty Hearst case angers me, not because of anything involving Hearst directly, but because the scumbag William Harris is given a platform to claim victimhood and explain away his criminal, murderous acts. My immediate reaction was, "How is this guy out of prison?"

Harris, the leader of the Symbionese Liberation Army, claims six of his comrades were murdered by the LAPD in 1974, a claim repeated later in the episode by SLA sympathizer Micki Scott, who was never prosecuted for harboring fugitives. Let's see, you have a group of bank robbers who call themselves an "army" holed up in a house, shooting at officers and news crews with automatic weapons, and how dare the LAPD shoot back?

Then Myrna Lee Opsahl was murdered when the remnants of the SLA robbed another bank, and Harris explains it away as an "accident." Never mind that this "accident" occurred during a bank robbery that he planned. Opsahl, a 42-year-old mother of four, was in the bank to deposit receipts for her church group. A threatening lady indeed. Harris eventually (30 years later) served four years in prison for this murder. His former wife Emily, who pulled the trigger to kill Opsahl, served five years. For the past decade these criminals have been free; meanwhile Opsahl's family has been without her for nearly 45 years.

I guess if you want to commit a murder, announce that you are a revolutionary and do in Governor Moonbeam's California. In a so-called red state, Harris would have been executed or sentenced to life in prison without parole for his violent crimes. It's actually hard to find a complete list of his crimes since web searches get sidetracked by the Hearst story, but from what I can tell Harris served about 11 years in prison total for kidnapping (Hearst), at least two bank robberies, involvement in two murders, and a whole bunch of weapons violations. Drug addicts have served longer sentences for possessing a couple of pills. Shame on California for letting this guy out of of jail, and shame on CNN for giving publicity to him and his apologists.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

What next for the Summit? Minnesota?

For the basketball coaches at the four Summit League schools outside of the I-29 corridor (Fort Wayne, Western Illinois, Oral Roberts, Denver), this season their greatest fear appears to be coming to pass. In both men's and women's basketball, if the seedings hold, the nationally-televised Summit League championship games will be between South Dakota and South Dakota State. The games will be March 6 in Sioux Falls, an easy 50-mile drive down I-29 from both campuses. The winners move on to the big NCAA tournaments. In college athletics, success begets success, and USD-SDSU finals for both men and women televised from a packed Premier Center will be an all-day recruiting ad directed at high school basketball stars across the Upper Midwest. "Big 10 not recruiting you? Want to play in the NCAA Division 1 tournament? You can do it at South Dakota (State)."

Although teams such as the Western Illinois women and Fort Wayne men have proven it is possible to win de-facto tournament road games, there is no denying the I-29 schools (North Dakota State, USD, SDSU, Omaha) have a fan support advantage over the other four with the tournament in Sioux Falls every year. There's also no denying that the league has made a lot more money since it moved to Sioux Falls in 2009 than it did playing to mostly-empty arenas in Tulsa, Kansas City, Chicago or wherever. So while the four unfortunate coaches may not like the home-court advantage given to the other teams, their athletic directors like those big checks coming in from the league office every year after the tournament.

Still, the league has experienced a lot of turnover in its history and nothing prevents those four outliers from looking around for a better situation. Wikipedia lists 22 former members, including as far east as Connecticut (Central Connecticut State) and as far south as Louisiana (Centenary). Just last year IUPUI left the league, and next year North Dakota (I-29!) will join, making the league even more Dakota-centric.

I don't know if this will happen, but if you start with the five I-29 schools there are three logical choices for filling out an eight-team league. None of them are current members, so I would start by saying b'bye to the afore-mentioned Fort Wayne, Western Illinois, Oral Roberts and Denver. The three new schools should all be from Minnesota: St. Cloud, Duluth, and Mankato. The problem is all three currently are Division 2 in the relevant sports. To my knowledge, the only one that has considered making the switch is St. Cloud, which wanted to drop football a couple years ago. All 16 Northern Sun Conference teams play football and most of them want it to stay that way, so in a strange way the easiest way for St. Cloud to drop football might be to go D1 and join the Summit League, which does not have football. (The Dakota schools and Western Illinois are members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference.)

The question isn't why should the three Minnesota schools go D1, but why haven't they already? The official answer is the State of Minnesota budget, and the slightly deeper answer is Gopher protection. The powers in Minnesota do not want schools from the in-state hinterlands recruiting D1 players away from the University of Minnesota. What they can't prevent is schools from just across the border from doing it.

So because of money and politics we have a school like Mankato, which has 15,000 students and styles itself as Minnesota State, playing D2 basketball against church schools like Augustana which has fewer than 2,000 students.* In my opinion, the Summit League should consist of SDSU, USD, NDSU, UND, Omaha, Mankato aka Minnesota State, Duluth, and St. Cloud. These are all public universities of about the same size. Currently the longest trip in the Summit is Ft. Wayne to Denver, 1,100 miles. In the new Summit, it would be 500 miles from Duluth to Omaha.

This revision looks suspiciously like the North Central Conference, that great D2 conference of the northern plains that lasted from 1922 to 2008. All eight schools are former members of the NCC. The NCC broke up because the core four Dakota schools went D1 and others such as St. Cloud and Mankato weren't ready. Duluth actually joined the NCC after the core four had already left, but with more than 11,000 students they fit a mid-major D1 profile. I think the three Minnesota schools should decide to be ready, but I am not a taxpayer in that socialist state (thank God) so I have no say. For my own selfish reasons maybe I shouldn't want three more D1 schools competing directly with SDSU for Minnesota recruits (e.g. Jackrabbit legend Nate Wolters, a St. Cloud native), but this just makes so much sense.

I admit I spend too much time watching talking heads on ESPN. In turn, they spend too much time talking about just a few high-profile basketball programs that serve as one-year stopovers for NBA prospects. But there are 350 D1 schools. More than 99% of D1 college players have no chance of playing in the NBA or WNBA. Mike Daum of SDSU aside, it's this 99% that make up Summit League rosters. For them, D1 basketball is about playing some ball while getting an education and maybe getting to the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile they provide some entertainment in a place like Sioux Falls at a time when winter still holds a grip. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Compared to many other smaller conferences I think the Summit League is already successful, but I also think an I-29/Minnesota D1 conference would be even better.

* In 2015-16, Augustana beat Iowa of the Big 10 in an exhibition game and won the men's NCAA D2 national championship despite being the 15th-largest school in the Northern Sun, but that doesn't really help my argument here. 😁 Gotta have players, and that year they had three great players.

Update: Local talking heads have mentioned St. Cloud and Mankato as possible additions, but they also have mentioned Augustana. While this would make huge sense geographically, and while Augie competed against many of these schools in the NCC, it's just hard to get past the size disparity. It has more to do with number of alumni and their dollars rather than number of current students. If the Vikings made the move, they probably would want to keep football but perhaps as a non-scholarship sport, i.e the Pioneer League, which has 11 members spread across the entire country, the closest of which is Drake. So there does seem to be a path to D1. Having Augie in the Summit would be crazy, but maybe that's crazy good.