The Latest on Missouri Valley Expansion
(St. Louis, MO) – Rumors are flying. Opinions are roaring and no one really knows what the Missouri Valley Conference will do next in college basketball’s latest realignment merry-go-round.
WKRN in Nashville quotes ‘sources’ that say the Valley is recruiting Belmont. The Nashville based university was reluctant to leave the Ohio Valley Conference four years ago because they had just joined that league after leaving the Atlantic Sun Conference.
WKRN says “travel costs and scholarship requirements would be considerably higher for the Bruins in the MVC as opposed to their current home the Ohio Valley Conference.” (Click here for the full WKRN article)
Valley Presidents and athletic directors met in last weekend in St. Louis to discuss the league’s plans and possible candidates to replace the departed Wichita State. Valley officials are committed to making no statements about the process before them, but have already done preliminary work on prospective programs, knowing a Shocker departure could be coming.
When Creighton left in 2013, MVC officials were less prepared and than they are now. In 2013 it took the second oldest college basketball conference roughly six weeks to offer Loyola their MVC invitation.
The persistent rumors of prospective members center on Belmont, Valparaiso, Murray State, UMKC and the Dakota schools. Valley officials will neither confirm nor deny those possibilities.
If history is our teacher, the league has formed or is forming profiles of prospective programs. After evaluating a number of criteria, league officials will no doubt conduct campus visits to evaluate facilities and campus culture. To receive an invitation to join the Valley, a prospective program would receive seven positive votes from the nine university presidents.
As Commissioner Doug Elgin told us in March, this has not caught the league unaware, so league officials had some of the preliminary work done prior to the announcement of Wichita State’s joining the American Athletic Conference.
Shortly after the Wichita State move was announced, CBS Sports reporter Jon Rothstein reported that Valparaiso and Murray State were at the top of the Valley’s wish list to replace Wichita State.
Paul Oren of ‘The Times’ says Valpo ought to accept a Valley invitation if one is extended.
“The Horizon League is in trouble. The graduate transfer rule is sapping this conference of its talent, says Oren. “Throw in traditional transfers and the list reads like a Who’s Who of Impact Transfers for top programs. There has been no stability in coaching either. Greg Kampe is the longest-tenured coach in the league and that’s not in total years, that’s just in the four years he’s been in the league. Every other program has a different head coach today than it did at the end of the 2014-15 season.”
A Valley insider tells me they are excited and optimistic about the possibilities of a fresh start and renewed energy brought by a new program. Obviously there are rumors that the league could be adding multiple teams, but those are more rumors that officials will not confirm nor deny.
Unlike in 2013 an incoming program has some different financial issues. The league’s involvement with ESPN3, while a significant marketing tool for the Valley, does create costs for each league member.
It looks like weeks before the Valley adds a team, or three, or none at all. The landscape has changed since 2013 so Valparaiso who was reportedly passed over then and Belmont who reportedly rejected Valley overtures could be back in the mix.