Missouri Valley Conference invites Valpo to join the league

Movin’ on up?    
   Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The league said Tuesday that its nine members voted unanimously to extend an invite to the Crusaders, who now play in the Horizon League, effective on July 1.

Representatives from the Valley also visited the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the University of Milwaukee.

Valparaiso on Tuesday was invited to join the Missouri Valley Conference, and after negotiations are finalized, it's expected to make the leap over the summer. They stayed in the remained Summit League through 2006-07, then jumped to the Horizon League.

However, Clif Smart, president of Missouri State University, tweeted Tuesday "the expansion community will continue to meet for the next [nine] months to evaluate further expansion opportunities".

The Valley is a St. Louis-based conference comprised of four private schools (Bradley, Drake, Evansville, Loyola) and five public schools (Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois).

Murray State, which has an FCS scholarship program in the Ohio Valley Conference, was one of the other universities considered for the Missouri Valley bid. The Valley has been in a state of transition in the past half decade, after losing power member Creighton to the Big East in 2013.

Still, none of those factors prevented the Missouri Valley from tapping the Crusaders in their second go-around.

The Crusaders have played in the NCAA Tournament nine times and have a 2-9 record, having lost their first game in seven consecutive appearances.

In the 18th-ranked conference in the country, Valpo finished last season with an RPI ranking of 78. The Crusaders have made the NCAA Tournament nine times, most recently in 2015. KenPom rated the Valley as the No. 10 conference and the Horizon No. 20.

Besides basketball considerations, the MVC offers the same sports as the Horizon League except for men's swimming.

Tickets for the 2017 MVC Softball Championship are on sale now through the Illinois State Athletics Ticket Office. Most coaches and athletic directors within the league prefer the 10-team format and schedule. The Crusaders were 24-9 this past season and tied for the Horizon's regular-season title.

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