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 110th season in 2016-17. 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 2016, UNI and Wichita State represented the Conference in the NCAA Tournament, and the teams combined for three victories. Recent success in resurrecting the challenge series with the Mountain West Conference, and the increased opportunities for MVC teams to participate in ESPN’s early-season multi-team events and in other elite tournaments, have added strong opponents and more national television exposure to the non-conference scheduling mix.
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 27th year in the Gateway City. The tournament, in 2016, celebrated its 40th anniversary overall.
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 in 2016, four Valley teams reached post-season play. MVC Tournament champ Missouri State represented the league in the NCAA Tournament, and the Lady Bears were joined by Drake (WNIT), UNI (WNIT) and Southern Illinois (WBI) in post-season play. The Panthers reached the third round of the WNIT. 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 second time in 2017 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, regular-season and MVC Tournament Champion Dallas Baptist represented the league in the NCAA Tournament and was one win away from reaching the Super Regional, falling to No. 5 overall seed Texas Tech in the regional finals. Four league teams won 30+ games led by the Patriots’ league-best 44 victories. A total of 17 players were taken in the 2016 Major League Baseball draft.
For the third time in league history, four Valley volleyball teams were selected as part of the field of 64 to play for the 2015 NCAA national title. MVC regular-season and tournament champion Wichita State was joined by at-large selections Missouri State, UNI and Southern Illinois in the 2015 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship. Four conference teams were also a part of the 2010 and 2007 NCAA Volleyball Championship fields.
In track & field, league student-athletes continue to be dominant nationally in the sport, as the MVC has now produced 18 national champions in the sport in the past 10 years. Notably, 20 student-athletes from MVC schools qualified for the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championship in Eugene, Ore., and all 20 earned All-America recognition. The Valley placed five athletes on the First Team, four on the Second Team and eleven as Honorable Mention. The list was highlighted by DeAnna Price of Southern Illinois who claimed first-place in the Women's Hammer Throw for the second-consecutive year.
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 are in the midst of 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 has the exclusive sales and marketing rights to MVC assets that include championships and television advertising. In June 2016, the MVC and Learfield Sports extended that partnership through 2023-24, concurrent with the league’s contract with ESPN.
Notably, the 2016 men’s basketball tournament marked 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 2016, The Valley hosted a first- and second-round men’s basketball event in Scottrade Center. The Valley also hosted an NCAA second- and third-round men's basketball event at Scottrade Center in St. Louis in 2014, and in 2013, the league hosted an NCAA second- and third-round men's basketball event in Kansas City. The Valley 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 106th outdoor track and field championship, its 99th tennis championship, its 63rd baseball tournament, and its 79th golf championship for the men. Those programs, plus other current sponsored sports of cross country (58 years), indoor track (66), men's soccer (26), women's soccer (20), and swimming and diving (23), 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 90 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, which includes a list of more than 260 drafted to the NBA, 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 June of 2016, Stiles was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. Notably, also in 2016, Loyola head coach Sheryl Swoopes (a star student-athlete for Texas Tech and in the WNBA) was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
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), Illinois State's Tim Glover (back-to-back javelin championships in 2011 and 2012), Indiana State's Felisha Johnson (indoor weight throw in 2011 and 2013), and Southern Illinois’ DeAnna Price (hammer throw in 2015 and 2016) 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 2016, Price was named a semifinalist for the Bowerman Award. She is the second in Southern Illinois history to be a semifinalist, joining Jeneva McCall (2012) and is just the third in MVC history to be named a semifinalist for the Bowerman, joining McCall and Indiana State's Kylie Hutson (2010).
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 Stony Brook competes as an affiliate member in men’s and women’s tennis.