Wichita State track and field coach Steve Rainbolt lacks a name for his invitational this spring. It needs to be perfect to capture the spirit of the event.This is exactly the outside-the-box thinking that college track and field needs in order to take itself out of the doldrums. There's some risk involved here -- scheduling it during Penn/Drake weekend definitely qualifies as such -- but were I within a days drive of Wichita I know I'd go. It's probably going to be a helluva meet. For the record, I'm going to put my money on Stephen F. Austin, as the Southland Conference is far tougher than most people realize.
Some possibilities: BracketBusters Track and Field Invitational (the copyright problems are obvious). The Mid-Major Invitational. The Non-BCS No BS Invitational. The I-AA National Championship.
Lots of possibilities, as we said.
WSU and at least five other teams will compete on April 30 at Cessna Stadium in an event Rainbolt hopes becomes an annual. WSU invited about 40 of the top teams (and offered to help with expenses) from conferences outside the six Bowl Championship Series conferences. The field isn't set, but Rainbolt expects to welcome at least six schools. The schools invited won either their men's or women's conference title, or totaled the most points in their conference when the scores are combined. The Shockers fit in that group after winning the Missouri Valley Conference men's outdoor title and finishing second in the women's meet last spring.
"I think it will be terrific track and field," Rainbolt said.
The idea is to highlight track outside the power conferences. The timing gives some schools a chance to tune up for conference meets in May. While many schools will send athletes to the Penn Relays or the Drake Relays for elite times that weekend, WSU's meet will focus on team standings.
WSU appears to be following the formula I set out last March. They use their track, with three outdoor home meets, the state high school championships, the USATF Junior Olympics, and a summer all-comers series. (And they should use Cessna Stadium, as it's the largest track-specific stadium in the USA). They have interesting meets; besides the one abover they're also bringing in Nebraska and Northern Iowa for a tri-meet.