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 109th season in 2015-16. 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 2015, Wichita State (14) and UNI (11) represented the league in the final Associated Press rankings and gave the league its first same-season pair of 30-win teams in Valley history. Both teams played in the NCAA Tournament, and Wichita State reached the Sweet 16. The Valley had the nation’s best post-season winning percentage (.824) as the league’s five post-season qualifiers combined for a 14-3 record, which including post-season tournament championships by Evansville (CollegeInsider.com Tournament) and Loyola (College Basketball Invitational). All five teams won at least one game. Wichita State’s Sweet 16 run included victories over storied programs Indiana and Kansas and marked the sixth MVC team to reach the Sweet 16 in the past 10 years.
The State Farm 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 26th year in the Gateway City. The tournament, in 2016, will be celebrating its 40th anniversary.
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 won a school-record 29 games en route to a third-straight NCAA Tournament berth. The Shockers were joined by Drake (WNIT), Missouri State (WNIT) and UNI (WNIT) in post-season play. Meanwhile, the Conference remains committed to keeping the tournament at a neutral site. The women’s tournament, tagged “Hoops in the Heartland,” will compete in the iWireless Center in Moline, Ill., for the first time in 2016 as part of a multi-year agreement to conduct the league’s post-season tournament at a neutral site in the Quad Cities.
In baseball, The Valley had one of its most successful seasons to date, as three league teams were selected to play in the NCAA Tournament for just the sixth time in MVC history. Regular-season and MVC Tournament Champion Missouri State was joined by at-large qualifiers Bradley and Dallas Baptist. MSU and DBU both hosted an NCAA Regional, marking the first time the league has had two hosting sites in the same season, and the Bears became the first national seed for The Valley, earning a No. 8 overall seed. Dallas Baptist won three games, Bradley won its first NCAA game since 1956, and Missouri State fell one game short of reaching the College World Series, losing a winner-take-all-game to Arkansas in the Super Regional in Fayetteville, Ark. Missouri State ended the year with a school-record 49 victories.
In soccer, SIU Edwardsville represented the league in the NCAA Championship, winning a first-round match in its first NCAA Tournament experience since joining the Division I ranks. Illinois State, meanwhile, became the first women’s team to win an NCAA Tournament match, beating South Florida to advance to the second round for a second-straight year (ISU had advanced in 2013 on PKs). Rachel Tejada earned Player of the Year honors for a fourth-straight season.
Illinois State had an historic run in volleyball, winning both the league regular-season and tournament titles while posting a perfect 18-0 slate in Valley matches, becoming just the third team in MVC history to run the table in volleyball. Indiana State won the MVC Tournament softball title for the second time in its history, and despite entering NCAA Tournament play with a losing overall record, the Sycamores won a game, ousting Louisville from the tournament. Drake’s men’s tennis team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championship, while standout Alen Salibasic of Drake earned the NCAA Elite 89 Award for a second-straight year. Wichita State’s women’s tennis team earned the league title and lost in the NCAA First Round, but the Shockers’ men’s doubles team of Tomislav Gregurovic and Tin Ostojic posted WSU’s first NCAA doubles win in over three decades. Wichita State swept the men’s and women’s golf titles, and the Shocker men missed qualifying for the NCAA Finals by two strokes, finishing sixth in regional play.
In track & field, league student-athletes continue to be dominant nationally in the sport, as the MVC has now produced 17 national champions in the sport in the past nine years. Notably, 18 student-athletes from MVC schools qualified for the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Championship in Eugene, Ore. Southern Illinois’ women’s track & field team finished 9th in the NCAA Indoor Meet and 12th in the NCAA Outdoor Meet. Indiana State, however, won both the men’s and women’s MVC titles in the indoor meet and also took home the men’s cross country title. And Bradley’s women’s cross country team took home just its second MVC title and first since 1998.
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 events.
The summer of 2015 yielded two major announces on the TV front, as ESPN and the Missouri Valley Conference announced a 10-year extension to their current media rights agreement that will provide increased coverage of Conference events across ESPN platforms through 2023-24. As part of the deal – which continues a business relationship that began in 1986 – ESPN, the Missouri Valley Conference and its 10 member institutions will work jointly to develop in-house production capabilities at each campus that will provide significant national coverage for multiple sports on ESPN3 and hands-on educational opportunities for students. As a result, ESPN3 will showcase a minimum of 820 events a year (a minimum of 70 men’s basketball) in the final six years of the agreement on the league’s co-branded network (The Valley on ESPN3).
Additionally, CBS Sports and the MVC reached a multi-year agreement to televise Valley basketball games on the CBS Television Network and CBS Sports Network. The deal, which begins this season and continues through 2019-20, is through a sublicense agreement with ESPN. CBS Sports has televised the men’s basketball tournament final since 2006.
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.
Notably, the 2016 men’s basketball tournament will mark the return as State Farm Insurance as the event’s title sponsor. The Valley remains the only college athletics conference that State Farm sponsors, and State Farm has been a sponsor of the conference since 1984, first as an advertiser on league TV games. State Farm last had naming rights of the men’s basketball championship in 2012.
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. In 2014, The Valley hosted an NCAA second- and third-round men's basketball event at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, and in 2013, 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. In 2016, The Valley will once again be hosting an NCAA event in March, as it entertains a first- and second-round men’s basketball event in Scottrade Center.
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 105th outdoor track and field championship, its 98th tennis championship, its 62nd baseball tournament, and its 78th golf championship for the men. Those programs, plus other current sponsored sports of cross country (57 years), indoor track (65), men's soccer (25), women's soccer (19), and swimming and diving (22), 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 32 post-season national team championships, including two men’s basketball crowns in 2015 (Evansville-CIT; Loyola-CBI). 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. Meanwhile, Raven Saunders of Southern Illinois earned NCAA shot put titles in both the 2015 indoor and outdoor meets.
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; Arkansas-Little Rock is an affiliate member in women’s swimming and diving; and Hartford, UMBC and Stony Brook compete as affiliate members in men’s tennis.