Daily Egyptian

Valpo brings 17 teams to MVC, filling voids left by Wichita St.

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Daily Egyptian file photo

Daily Egyptian file photo

Daily Egyptian file photo

By Nathan Dodd

When Wichita State left the Missouri Valley Conference for the American Athletic Conference in April, MVC schools were left wondering who would replace the Shockers in their athletic schedules. SIU and other universities were not left waiting long for their answer.

The MVC offered an invitation to Valparaiso as Wichita State’s successor. It was rumored Valparaiso was seeking to join the MVC when Creighton departed to join the Big East in 2013, leading many insiders to assume that Valpo was still open to the move in 2017. 

The university accepted the league’s invite in May and became an official MVC member July 1. Located in Valparaiso, Indiana, the Crusaders had competed in the Horizon League since 2007.

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Valparaiso brings with it 17 total collegiate teams and a winning pedigree. The Crusaders have seen their men’s and women’s basketball teams reach the NCAA tournament in recent years. Also earning NCAA tournament bids in recent seasons are the men’s and women’s soccer team, men’s baseball team and women’s volleyball team.

It was announced Valparaiso will not join the Missouri Valley Football Conference for the foreseeable future. The Crusaders will continue to participate in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League.

“The opportunity to be in a conference with the history and tradition of the Missouri Valley was one we needed to pursue,” Valparaiso athletic director Mark LaBarbera told the Chicago Tribune in May. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for our program and student-athletes, and it’s good for the university as a whole to elevate our national reputation.”

The decision for Wichita State to move on from the MVC came mostly in part from the success of the men’s basketball team.

The Shockers’ basketball team has been no stranger to postseason play as of late. Since 2010, Wichita State has made five consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including the Final Four at the culmination of the 2013 season. It’s worth noting that SIU defeated Wichita that season, marking the last time the Salukis defeated the Shockers.

Three players from Wichita’s historic Final Four team now play professionally in the NBA.

Valparaiso is well-known nationally for its men’s basketball program for good reason. Since the 2010-11 season, the Crusaders have captured a postseason tournament bid each and every year.

In 2016, Valparaiso basketball shared the top record in the Horizon League and attained a position in the NIT tournament.

Reagan Gavin | @RGavin_DE

“They have a great pedigree in men’s basketball,” SIU athletic director Tommy Bell told The Southern Illinoisan. “They really match up with a lot of comprehensive athletic departments, and they really match up with Missouri Valley-sponsored sports.”

Valparaiso brings in teams neither Wichita State or Southern Illinois offer at the NCAA level — men’s and women’s soccer. The Crusaders will also transfer the men’s and women’s tennis teams to the MVC, which SIU recently cut from their collegiate athletic program.

The men’s tennis team at Valpo captured the Horizon League title in both 2016 and 2017, but will not have the chance to do the same in the MVC as the Valley discontinued men’s tennis in the conference due to lack of participating institutions. Instead, Valparaiso joined the Summit League with MVC-castoffs Illinois State and Drake University.

Valparaiso will replace Wichita State in virtually every other MVC sport including baseball, cross country, golf, softball, track and volleyball.

One of the most successful teams Valpo has offered in recent years is its baseball team. Crusaders baseball reached the NCAA tournament in both 2012 and 2013 after taking the Horizon League crown.

Valparaiso joins the MVC following a season where five teams won 10 or more conference games including Southern Illinois and Wichita State.

On the softball field, the Salukis will face fierce competition when they meet the Crusaders. The 2017 MVC Champion Salukis will take on the 2016 Horizon League Champion Crusaders. Valparaiso has claimed three conference championships since 2012, earning automatic bids into the NCAA tournament.

“We are thrilled to join the Missouri Valley Conference,” Valparaiso President Mark Heckler told USA Today. “This is an important step forward for all of our athletics programs and an opportunity to advance the national standing of Valparaiso University.”

The first time that the Salukis and Crusaders will compete head-to-head as conference opponents will be on Sept. 25 when the Crusaders’ volleyball team travels to Carbondale to play their first ever road match as a member of the MVC.

Only time will tell how Valparaiso’s addition to the conference will affect the future of the MVC. After finding success amongst various programs in the Horizon League, Valpo hopes to find similar success in the near future as members of the Valley.

The addition of Valpo to the MVC brings the balance of public to private institutions in the conference to an even 5-to-5 ratio. And while there has been suggestions around the league that the MVC will be active in considering the addition of more teams to the current total of 10 in the conference, Valparaiso holds the distinction as the newcomer to the Valley for the foreseeable future.

Sports reporter Nathan Dodd can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NathanMDodd.

To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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