By Gary Norris Gray, BASN Staff Reporter
OAKLAND — As The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) begins its March Madness basketball tournament the first week of March, there is a growing concern about players, conferences, teams, and Mid-Majors. The Missouri Valley Conference is shrinking with each passing year as the conference begins to search for their next powerhouse basketball team.
In football the North Dakota State Bison represented the MVC and won back to back national titles IN Division I Football Championship Series (FCS), formerly known as Division I-AA. it did not matter. The Bison with All American quarterback Carson Wentz who took the World Champion Philadelphia Eagles most of the way this year, still cannot get respect and that has been the constant problem for Mid-Majors.
The Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association was founded in 1907 and it is the second oldest conference in the United States. The MVC is also known as “The Valley” holds it’s conference basketball tournament in Saint Louis, Missouri. They have done so since 1991. The MVC could be the first one to dissolve if they don’t find a way to retain their basketball power teams.
The Missouri Valley once again is going through shrinking pains but they have added two new Mid-Major teams the Chicago-Loyola Ramblers and the Valparaiso Crusaders. Both of these teams are nomads and continue to go from conference to conference. Valparaiso which is in Indiana entered the Mid-Continent Conference 1982-93 before the Horizon League 1993-2017. These are the replacements for the two contracted power house Mid-Majors, the Wichita State University Wheat Shockers currently ranked #11 and the Creighton Blue Jays currently ranked 24th. These two teams left the MVC because only one team usually represented this conference in the NCAA Tournament because of the lower power ratings, both wanted to play in the party every year. Just ask the 26-8 Southern Illinois Saluki team in 1989-90 that went to the NIT National Invitational Tournament in New York because they lost the MVC Championship Game to the up and coming Creighton Blue Jays. It could happen again this year with the number one seeded Loyola Chicago Ramblers and number two seeded Southern Illinois University Salukis. The Salukis were three games behind the Ramblers heading into the MVC Tournament.
It seems like whenever a team gains notoriety, fame, and national rankings they exit “The Valley,” to a bigger conference, this was the case with the Blue Jays and Wheat Shockers both cracked the top ten basketball coaches poll in the last seven years. They both left the conference the next year. Wichita State moved to the American Conference and Creighton moved to The Big East Conference, 2,000 miles away from the Blue Jay Nebraska campus. Both will be in the Tournament this year, it would not happen if both were in the MVC.
The Wheat Shockers and Blue Jays basketball programs put Mid-Majors and the MVC back on the map with their tournament victories the past five years and this is the reward for the Missouri Valley.
This is not new, The Louisville Cardinals, Memphis State Tigers, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, West Texas State Buffalos, Northern Illinois Huskies, Cincinnati Bearcats, and the Detroit Titans all left the MVC. The Big 12 took three of the biggest stars of the conference in 1928 with Iowa State, University of Kansas, and Kansas State to form what we know now as the Big 12.
The MVC at one time stretched from Indiana to North Dakota and from Chicago, Illinois to southern Texas. The University of Iowa was the first to leave the conference in 1908 one year after the conference was established and Wichita State University was the last in 2017.
Saluki killer Kyle Kover
There have been superstars on the court from this small conference. They are also current stars playing in the (NBA) National Basketball Association. Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet from Wichita State and Kyle Kover, Doug McDermott and Anthony Tolliver from Creighton.
There have been many MVC stars of the past
Walt Frazier, Dick Garrett, Mike Glenn, Troy Hudson, Joe C. Meriweather, -Southern Illinois University,
Larry Bird, and Paul Silas- Indiana State University,
Nate Bowman, Antoine Carr, Xavier McDaniel, Dave Stallworth-Wichita State University,
Doug Collins Illinois State University,
Hersey Hawkins, Walt Lemon Jr., Chet Walker-Bradley University,
These universities leave smaller conference because they want to become more visible to the American public. They should do this the old fashion way like the Gonzaga Bull Dogs of the West Coast Conference. The Zags earned it with repeated conference victories and NCAA Tournament wins. Yes, the West Coast Conference and Gonzaga got beat up 10 years ago with lower seeds in NCAA Tournaments but they kept working never quitting. Other small conferences should follow suit.
The NCAA has to address the issues of universities leaving small school conferences for bigger conferences, and television monies or conferences like the MVC may no longer exist.
This Saluki graduate will enjoy this year’s MVC Tournament in Saint Louis but the NCAA and the Missouri Valley Conference has work to do to upgrade all of the Mid Major conferences or lose these programs.
P.S. The men from Chicago-Loyola will be dancing next week as they defeated the Ill. State University Redbirds 65-49 while the men from Southern Ill. University have to set and wait for the Sunday selection show after losing the MVC Semi final game against Ill. State in overtime 76-68. This is the very reason why Wichita State and Creighton left the conference. Both programs were tired of the year ending drama.
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian, Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston, Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad Network, Disabled Community Activist. Email Glcgray@gmail.com
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