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The Missouri Valley Conference has demonstrated throughout history that it finds the strength, resources, competitive determination and leadership to rise to even higher levels when confronted with change or significant challenges.
In 2012-13, the winds of change that have dramatically affected Division I conference realignment in recent years finally touched The Valley. For the first time since 1996, the MVC will experience the addition and departure of a member institution. The Valley formally welcomed Loyola University Chicago into the membership on July 1, 2013. Loyola is the 33rd institution to enter the Missouri Valley Conference and the first-ever member university from the Chicago metropolitan area. In March 2013, Creighton University, an MVC member for nearly 60 years, had announced its departure from the MVC for the newly configured Big East Conference.
If the Missouri Valley Conference has been anything over the past 106 seasons of athletic competition, it has been resilient. The Valley – which will experience its 107th season of athletics competition in 2013-14 -- has weathered many kinds of storms, including changes in its membership. In 1928, six institutions (Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Missouri and Oklahoma) left the league to form the Big Six Conference. Another major exodus from the MVC took place in the 1970s when four institutions departed over a three-year period. Each time there has been a setback or a major change in membership, the Conference has retooled and reinvented itself.
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. 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. In 2013, Wichita State reached the Final Four, marking the first time since 1979 (Indiana State) that an MVC team had advanced that far (a league member has now been to the Final Four 17 times.) 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. Wichita State (4) and Creighton (21) ended the season ranked in the USA Today Coaches poll, marking the third time in the past eight seasons that two league members achieved a Top-25 ranking in a season-ending poll. Six MVC schools represented the league in post-season play, and the league combined for a record-setting 13 post-season victories in 2013.
Creighton’s Doug McDermott earned First-Team All-America honors for the second-straight-year, becoming the first league player to earn First Team All-America honors in back-to-back seasons since Indiana State's Larry Bird (1978 and 1979). And for the first time in 15 years and only the third time in MVC history, two players eclipsed the 2,000-point plateau in the same year as McDermott (2,216) was joined by Evansville's Colt Ryan (2,279).
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 2015. During the 2011 MVC Championship, the league surpassed 1 million in total attendance for the event, now in its 24th year. Notably, the 2013 championship was the second-most attended in conference history.
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 2012 College Cup semifinals for the second consecutive season, falling in a 1-0 loss to eventual-national champion Indiana. Creighton won its 12th regular-season league championship. Creighton’s Jose Gomez was named a MAC Hermann Trophy Finalist and NSCAA All-America first team selection, while Bluejay Andrew Ribeiro was also a NSCAA All-America first-team selection.
In women's basketball, for the 10th time in league history, and the first time since 2002, The Valley earned two bids to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Wichita State, which earned the Valley's automatic bid after winning its first-ever tournament title, was joined by Creighton, which earned an at-large selection for the second time in program history (1994). The Bluejays, a No. 10 seed, knocked off seventh-seeded Syracuse, 61-56, earning the league’s first NCAA Tournament victory since 2002. Three teams – Illinois State, Indiana State and UNI – also earned WNIT Tournament berths – for a total of five postseason teams. The 2013 season marked the fifth time in league history with at least five postseason bids. Meanwhile, 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, Creighton, UNI and Wichita State represented the league in the NCAA Tournament. It marked the fifth time in league history that three volleyball teams were invited to the Dance (also in 2011, 2010, 2008 and 2007). The Valley earned three first-round NCAA Volleyball Tournament wins for the first time in MVC history, while Wichita State advanced to its first-ever Sweet 16 after knocking off Arkansas and Kansas in its historic run.
In baseball, Illinois State won its first-ever outright Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title, tallying one more league win than Wichita State. Four teams passed the 30-win threshold, marking the seventh-straight season in which at least four MVC teams have reached 30 wins. Bradley's Mike Tauchman became the first player from a last place team to win MVC Player of the Year after leading the nation in hitting (.425).
In track & field, league student-athletes continue to be dominant nationally in the sport. Indiana State’s Felicia Johnson won an individual weight throw title at the NCAA Indoor Championships, and the MVC has now produced 14 national champions in the sport in the past seven years. Indiana State, notably, swept both the men's and women's MVC outdoor titles, marking the first time a school had won in both genders at the league outdoor meet since 2008.
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. This year, The Valley will host an NCAA second- and third-round men's basketball event at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Last year, 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 103rd outdoor track and field championship, its 96th tennis championship, its 60th baseball tournament, and its 76th golf championship for the men. Those programs, plus other current sponsored sports of cross country (55 years), indoor track (63), men's soccer (23), women's soccer (17), and swimming and diving (20), 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, nearly 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, and Dallas Baptist is an affiliate member for baseball.