Truman State University Bulldogs have faced off against Lindenwood University countless times during their collegiate athletic history, but starting July 2019, the Bulldogs will face Lindenwood as a conference opponent. Previously a member of the MIAA, Lindenwood was approved to join the GLVC in an Oct. 2 vote by the GLVC Council of Presidents, according to an article published on the Lindenwood Athletics website.
Lindenwood has an enrollment of more than 4,000 students and has provided plenty of competition for Truman and similarly sized schools over the years. Comparing the enrollment for Lindenwood with the enrollment of other GLVC schools, Lindenwood is among the smaller schools in the conference, while the majority of schools fall within a range of 5,000 — 7,000 students.
In addition to Lindenwood, Southwest Baptist University, with a student population of just under 3,500, will also be joining the GLVC over the summer. Though each of these schools are a good fit for the conference, selecting a suitable team for conference expansion isn’t always such an easy choice, and one of the most important factors when considering adding a new team is the size of the university.
One might not initially see how large an effect school size has on the performance or quality of the school’s athletics, but the higher the number of students attending a university, the higher number of potential student athletes the school can recruit from. Of course, there will be exceptions, but generally speaking, bigger schools have an easier time finding skilled athletes. As a school with an average pool of students to choose from, as far as the GLVC is concerned, Truman is still able to put out winning teams (football and women’s soccer come to mind), and this is largely in part thanks to strong backing for our athletics programs. Smaller schools in the conference, however, are at a disadvantage when it comes to drafting teams. Contrast a school like William Jewell University, which has an enrollment of 932 students, with the University of Missouri-Saint Louis, which has an enrollment of over 17,000. Although UMSL has over 17 times more students, these schools compete in the same conference. This statement is not to disparage William Jewell — if anything, it’s a testament to William Jewell’s ability to keep up in most sports — but in sports that are highly dependent on having a large number of players on a team, William Jewell struggles to compete against larger schools, and their football team’s 1-6 record reflects this.
On the opposite end of things, having the largest student body doesn’t make a team automatically dominant either. UMSL and Missouri S&T have larger numbers of students, but they routinely perform in the middle of the pack when compared to their conference opponents. While this does not necessarily mean a team with greater numbers does not have an advantage over a smaller team, it does show that there is always room for smaller teams to succeed in their seasons. Essentially, I would argue that smaller teams the size of William Jewell and Quincy University might want to exercise caution before lunging headfirst against their potential conference opponents.
Even with the presence of smaller teams, the GLVC council of Presidents, the body responsible for accepting new colleges to the conference, shouldn’t restrict their selection process further. Despite the numerical disadvantage, smaller schools like William Jewell can and should absolutely continue to compete in the GLVC — I would never advocate for the GLVC to prevent smaller colleges from joining altogether. However, I would recommend any school with fewer than 3,000 students planning on joining the GLVC to be prepared for tough competition.