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From early beginnings to its current standing on the map of college athletics, the Missouri Valley Conference continues to be proactive. As The Valley enters its 106th season of athletic competition in 2012-13, the nation’s second-oldest NCAA Division I conference continues to be a leader in college athletics and is one of the nation’s most progressive conferences.
In what has become a wild, unpredictable age in collegiate athletics, the Missouri Valley Conference has remained strong and stable. Notably, 19 of the nation's 31 Division I conferences have new membership for this season, and all but five of those conferences have undergone a transformation in membership since 2000. Notably, the Missouri Valley Conference's current 10-member composition has remained the same since 1996 – and only two leagues (Ivy, Patriot) can match that continuity. League members have worked together to focus on common goals and objectives, putting a high value on league harmony while continuing to invest in athletic programs to compete at the highest level.
The Valley brand remains very strong, both regionally and nationally, and the great athletic tradition of The Valley remains a compelling force in recruiting student-athletes and in marketing all the MVC programs.
Men’s basketball continues to be the engine that drives Valley athletic programs. With UNI’s NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in 2010, the league has had four different Sweet 16 teams since 2006, and The Valley is the only non-BCS league with more than two different Sweet 16 teams in that span. The State Farm MVC Tournament continues to be a spectacular showcase for the league, and the MVC has extended the tournament agreement with the Scottrade Center that will keep Arch Madness in St. Louis through at least 2015. During the 2011 State Farm MVC Championship, the league surpassed 1 million in total attendance for the event, now in its 23nd year.
Last year, the league matched a record with seven post-season teams, while Creighton and Wichita State represented the MVC in the NCAAs, marking the first time since 2007 that the league had received multiple NCAA bids. Creighton’s Doug McDermott became the first league player to earn First Team All-American honors since 1988. For the first time, the league had two ranked teams in the State Farm MVC Tournament (Creighton and Wichita State), while Creighton finished the season ranked No. 21 in the coaches' poll (taken after season’s end). Wichita State (18) and Creighton (19) represented the MVC in the final regular-season writer’s poll (March 12, 2012), marking the first time since 1974-75 that two MVC teams had been ranked in a season-ending AP poll.
While the success of men’s basketball has received the greatest attention, the overall performance of league teams in virtually every sport continues to raise the national profile of the conference.
In men's soccer, Creighton reached the 2011 College Cup semifinals, falling in a shootout loss to Charlotte. Bradley and Creighton -- who shared the regular-season MVC title with Missouri State -- represented the MVC in the NCAA Championship. Bradley also won a match before falling in the second round. In 2011, Creighton ended the year with a 21-2-1 record as it recorded 19 shutouts, falling one shy of the NCAA record. CU's 0.20 goals against average on the year set an NCAA record, while All-American goalkeeper Brian Holt also set an NCAA record by posting a 0.206 GAA. Creighton led the NCAA with four soccer All-Americans, and Holt was named a Lowe's Senior CLASS Award winner and Academic All-American of the Year.
In women's basketball, the league set an all-time record with seven post-season bids, while 2012 marked the 13th-straight season in which The Valley earned at least three post-season bids. The Conference remains committed to keeping the tournament at a neutral site at the Family Arena in St. Charles. Establishing a neutral site remains a huge part of the overall efforts to improve women’s basketball in The Valley.
In volleyball, UNI, Missouri State and Wichita State represented the league in the NCAA Tournament. It marked the sixth-straight season that multiple MVC teams were invited to the dance. UNI entered the NCAA Tournament with a 23-match win streak and advanced to the second round before falling to Florida. Notably, UNI has now won 61-straight matches against Missouri Valley Conference competition.
In baseball, Indiana State won its first regular season title since 1985, the program's first outright title. Five other Missouri Valley Conference teams – Evansville, Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State and Wichita State – passed the 30-win threshold, marking the sixth-straight season in which at least four MVC teams have reached 30 wins. For the fifth time in league history, three Missouri Valley Conference baseball teams were selected for the NCAA Baseball Championship. It marked the first time since 2007 that multiple MVC teams were invited to the dance and the first time since 2000 that three league teams were selected.
In track & field, the league picked up three more national championships. Southern Illinois standout Jeneva McCall earned the national championship title in the weight throw at the NCAA indoor meet, and she also took the outdoor title in the hammer throw. Illinois State’s Tim Glover was the national champion in the javelin at the outdoor meet for a second-straight year. It marks the seventh NCAA meet in a row that the MVC has earned an individual national title in track & field. The MVC has now produced 13 national champions in the sport in the past six years.
Meanwhile, the success of The Valley television package is one of the great stories in the league. The MVC Television Network has blossomed into a revenue-generating vehicle and The Valley’s most visible marketing tool. Also, The Valley is making video-streaming a major focus as it enters the third year of a three-year plan to upgrade the production and marketing of both institutionally-produced and conference-produced webcasts.
In 2010, The Valley took a major step toward ensuring current revenues in television media and tournament sponsorship sales would be guaranteed in future years when it announced a 10-year partnership with Learfield Sports. The Jefferson City, Missouri-based company now has the exclusive sales and marketing rights to MVC assets that include championships and television advertising.
During the tenure of Doug Elgin, The Valley’s ninth and longest-tenured commissioner, The Valley has been aggressive in hosting NCAA events in St. Louis. Since 1998, the MVC served as host for a staggering nine NCAA tournament events in the 13-year period, which has made St. Louis one of the most frequent stops on the NCAA Tournament trail. The Valley hosted Women’s Final Fours in 2001 and 2009 and the Men’s Final Four in 2005. The league will host an NCAA second- and third-round men's basketball event in Kansas City in 2013 and has already assisted Creighton with preliminary round men's events in both 2008 and 2012.
The seeds for the creation of the conference were planted by eight administrators representing five institutions, who met at the Midland Hotel in Kansas City, Mo., on Jan. 12, 1907. The five schools which formed the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association were Washington University of St. Louis, and the state universities of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Two months after the initial meeting, two more schools -- Drake University and Iowa State College -- were admitted.
In the fall of 1907, basketball became the first competitive sport. Today, the Missouri Valley Conference sponsors the following sports: baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country and track & field (indoor and outdoor), men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball.
While The Valley no longer sponsors football (it did from 1907-85), six league members compete in football at the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) level as Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State, UNI and Southern Illinois play in the 10-member Missouri Valley Football Conference (with North Dakota State, South Dakota, South Dakota State, Western Illinois and Youngstown State). That league competed as the Gateway Conference from 1985-2007. Drake plays non-scholarship football in the Pioneer Football League.
This season, the league will conduct its 102nd outdoor track and field championship, its 95th tennis championship, its 59th baseball tournament, and its 75th golf championship for the men. Those programs, plus other current sponsored sports of cross country (54 years), indoor track (46), men's soccer (22) and swimming and diving (19), have helped solidify The Valley as one of the nation’s most respected conferences.
Athletic accomplishments include four NCAA national basketball championships, 16 trips to the NCAA Final Four, a 1989 national baseball championship and 19 College World Series qualifiers. The league owns a total of 30 post-season national team championships, including Wichita State’s men’s basketball NIT title in 2011. In 2001, Missouri State added to The Valley women’s accomplishments, as the Lady Bears advanced to the Women’s Basketball Final Four in St. Louis. Creighton (2004) and Missouri State (2005) have claimed national championships (WNIT) in women’s basketball. MSU also has a 1992 NCAA Women’s Final Four appearance, and Creighton (2003), Drake (1999) and Illinois State (2009) have made semifinal trips to the WNIT postseason tournament.
Indeed, the inclusion of women’s programs under The Valley banner has provided a boost. The Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference -- which began in 1982 -- merged with The Missouri Valley Conference and was unveiled as part of the new conference on July 1, 1992.
While the inclusion of women’s sports under a comprehensive athletic umbrella is a recent development in the league’s storied history, over the years, Valley student-athletes and coaches have become household names during the league’s illustrious history, both during their collegiate careers and, for some, professional careers.
In fact, The Valley began honoring that tradition in the summer of 1997, when the conference began its athletics Hall of Fame. Hersey Hawkins of Bradley, Larry Bird of Indiana State, Wes Unseld of Louisville, Coach Henry Iba of Oklahoma State, Dave Stallworth of Wichita State, Ed Macauley of Saint Louis, and Oscar Robertson of Cincinnati were members of the initial induction class. Currently, nearly 70 former players, coaches and alums dot the league’s Hall of Fame.
Men’s basketball, perhaps, has the league’s most storied tradition, boasting the likes of Hall of Famers Bird and Robertson as former players, but The Valley has also produced national-caliber student-athletes in its other sponsored sports. In 2001, Missouri State’s Jackie Stiles became the first Valley woman to earn the Honda-Broderick Cup, given to the nation’s top female collegiate student-athlete. In the sport of track and field, Indiana State’s Holli Hyche captured seven national sprint titles in the early 1990s, Southern Illinois’ Darrin Plab won back-to-back NCAA outdoor high jump titles in 1991 and 1992, SIU’s Brittany Riley became the World record holder in the weight throw in 2007, and Kylie Hutson of Indiana State swept both the indoor and outdoor pole vault titles in 2009 and in 2010. Southern Illinois' Jeneva McCall (three NCAA individual championships) and Illinois State's Tim Glover (back-to-back javelin championships in 2011 and 2012) are the most recent multi-year NCAA champions in the league's highly decorated history in track & field.
In the fall of 1997, Creighton’s Johnny Torres was named the collegiate male soccer player of the year for a second-straight year, while SMU’s Luchi Gonzalez (2001) and Tulsa’s Ryan Pore (2004) have also earned a National Player of the Year honor in men’s soccer. Meanwhile, league member Wichita State has produced three national collegiate players of the year in baseball, including Joe Carter (1981), Phil Stephenson (1982) and Darren Dreifort (1993).
League members include Bradley, Creighton, Drake, Evansville, Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, and Wichita State. Central Arkansas and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville are affiliate members in men’s soccer.