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The Missouri Valley Conference, 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, celebrating its 108th season in 2014-15. League members have worked together to focus on common goals and objectives, placing 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. In 2014, Wichita State put together one of the greatest seasons in NCAA history, starting the year with 35-straight wins. The Shockers’ only blemish came in their final game, a two-point loss to eventual national-runnerup Kentucky in the NCAA 3rd Round. Wichita State was the league’s first NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed since 1979, and WSU matched a league record with its perfect 18-0 conference record. Wichita State ended the season ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll and No. 7 in the USA Today Coaches poll, marking the 10th time in the past 13 seasons at least one men’s basketball team has finished in the Top 25.
The MVC Men's Basketball Championship – affectionately known as Arch Madness - 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 2018. During the 2011 MVC Championship, the league surpassed 1 million in total attendance for the event, now in its 25h year.
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 women's basketball, Wichita State reeled off a school-record 20 wins en route to a program-best 26 wins and an NCAA Tournament berth. They were joined by Indiana State (WNIT) and Evansville (WBI) in post-season play. Meanwhile, the Conference remains committed to keeping the tournament at a neutral site. Establishing a neutral site remains a huge part of the overall efforts to improve women’s basketball in The Valley.
In baseball, Evansville won its second-ever regular-season title, and the league had two entries into the NCAA Championship as Dallas Baptist and Indiana State both received bids. The league finished the season ranked No. 7 in conference RPI, with five teams in the Top 100. Five teams passed the 30-win threshold, marking the eighth-straight season in which at least four MVC teams have reached 30 wins.
In soccer, Bradley represented the league in the NCAA Championship, winning a first-round match at Northwestern. Illinois State, meanwhile, became the first women’s team to advance to the second round, besting Louisville in PKs. Rachel Tejada earned Player of the Year honors for a third-straight season.
In track & field, league student-athletes continue to be dominant nationally in the sport, as the MVC has now produced 14 national champions in the sport in the past eight years. Notably, 27 student-athletes from MVC schools qualified for the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championship in Eugene, Ore.
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 continues to be proactive in upgrading 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. From 1998-2010, the MVC served as host for a staggering nine NCAA tournament events in that 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. Last year, The Valley hosted an NCAA second- and third-round men's basketball event at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, and in 2012, the league hosted an NCAA second- and third-round men's basketball event in Kansas City and previously assisted with preliminary round men's events in both 2008 and 2012 in Omaha.
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 104th outdoor track and field championship, its 97th tennis championship, its 61st baseball tournament, and its 77th golf championship for the men. Those programs, plus other current sponsored sports of cross country (56 years), indoor track (64), men's soccer (24), women's soccer (18), and swimming and diving (21), have helped solidify The Valley as one of the nation’s most respected conferences.
Athletic accomplishments include four NCAA national basketball championships, 17 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, more than 80 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) and Indiana State's Felisha Johnson (indoor weight throw in 2011 and 2013) 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, Drake, Evansville, Illinois State, Indiana State, Loyola Chicago, Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, and Wichita State. Central Arkansas and Southern Illinois Edwardsville are affiliate members in men’s soccer; Dallas Baptist is an affiliate member for baseball; and Arkansas-Little Rock is an affiliate member in women’s swimming and diving.