Missouri Valley Says Good Bye to Shockers
(St. Louis, MO) – It Is Official. Wichita State has left the building.
Shockers accept invitation to The American Athletic Conference #watchus
— Go Shockers (@GoShockers) April 7, 2017
The American Athletic Conference voted and the Shockers have accepted its invitation to join as the twelfth basketball-playing member of the league that includes SMU, Cincinnati, Houston, Central Florida, Memphis, Connecticut, Tulsa, Temple, East Carolina, Tulane and South Florida.
As has been widely reported, Missouri Valley Conference officials, including university presidents and athletic directors are meeting Sunday in St. Louis to lay the framework of expanding their now nine-member conference.
Valley Associate Commissioner Mike Kern released this statement Friday.
“The Missouri Valley Conference has undergone many changes in membership throughout our 110-year history, and the news today of Wichita State University’s departure brings us to another stage in the evolution of our league. The Valley has always been resilient and progressive in the face of these changes, and we have never been defined by a single institution.
We now have an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to competitive excellence and to a continuing investment in athletics. We have strong campus leadership – our Presidents Council has always been responsive and decisive when called upon to chart the future course of our conference. We have a membership process in place and we will be very deliberate in taking appropriate steps to provide the best opportunities to grow and strengthen our league. We will not waver in our determination to put our student-athletes and teams in the best possible position to compete on the national stage.
The MVC and our campus personnel will not be discussing our plans or our intentions until we have made important decisions and have taken steps to address our current membership issues.”
There has been wide speculation about which teams and how many teams the Valley would pursue after the Shocker departure. Ohio Valley Conference schools Belmont and Southeast Missouri, and Horizon teams Valparaiso and Oakland have frequently been mentioned by those covering the league.
Neither OVC nor Horizon League officials with whom I’ve communicated, have indicated that any discussions have begun with those institutions.
According to some reports, Wichita State will forfeit roughly $2.5 million in NCAA Tournament dispersement monies, for leaving the Valley without proper lead time. OVC insiders tell me there are financial penalties involved with teams if they left that conference under similar circumstances.
Other teams rumored to be likely contenders to join the MVC are IUPUI, Omaha, UMKC, Oral Roberts and any number of the Dakota schools.
I among others, have applauded both the idea of growing into a 12 team league and one of those new programs being UMKC. When you compare the Kansas City campus of the University of Missouri to some of the other contenders (Belmont, Valparaiso, IUPUI, Oral Roberts, Omaha and SEMO, they draw the most fans (5,663), they are second closest to St. Louis, they won 18 games and played postseason basketball last year and they are in a market that has no winter professional sport with which to compete.
However, you could not expand with SEMO and UMKC. Either team could become a relevant regional rival for Missouri State, but the Valley seemingly has to land at least one team with national credibility like Belmont or Valparaiso. Both of those teams have averaged better than 20 wins over the past five years. Valpo draws more than twice as many fans (5,301 to 2,423 per game) than do the Bruins, but both are less than a five hour drive from downtown St. Louis, the site of the league tournament.
When Commissioner Doug Elgin and the university officials meet, they can be encouraged that four years ago, when Creighton left the Valley, a very viable program (Loyola Chicago) came into the league. There was a period of adjustment for the Rambler program, but they appear to be program on the rise and a legitimate competitor in the newly configured MVC.