It’s official. For the first time in the history of Loyola University, the school will be changing athletic conferences. Effective July 1, 2013, Loyola will be leaving the Horizon League to become a member of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). The move was announced in an April 19 press conference and pep rally in the Gentile Arena. The formal announcement featured four speakers: Loyola’s President Fr. Michael Garanzini, S.J., Assistant Vice President and Director of Athletics Dr. M. Grace Calhoun, Head Men’s Basketball Coach Porter Moser and MVC Conference Commissioner Doug Elgin.
Once the move is complete, Loyola will be competing against the schools of the MVC: Wichita State, Missouri State, Indiana State, Bradley, Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, Illinois State, Evansville and Drake Universities.
The MVC set out to find a 10th school for their league after Creighton University departed for the redesigned Big East. Loyola was one of three schools that received campus visits from conference officials. UIC and Valparaiso University were the other schools that received consideration. According to Garanzini, in the middle of their Final Four run, Wichita State’s president, John William Bardo, left his school to come visit Loyola.
“[Bardo] said, ‘this is the only one of the three visits I’m going to because I’m most interested … in Loyola,’” Garanzini said in a later interview.
The school opened its doors to the MVC the day Damen Student Center construction was finished but before it was opened to students. Garanzini said league officials were given a tour of the brand new facility and were able to sample the new food offered in the food court and dining hall.
“I think we won the deal when we let them rove around and pick any food they want in the brand new center,” Garanzini joked.
Elgin was excited to welcome Loyola to the league.
“We had some very good options, I must say, but I think we’ve chosen the university that is the right fit … for the Missouri Valley,” Elgin said.
He went on to say that the conference officials were impressed by Loyola’s leadership and administration throughout the process of picking Creighton’s successor. Elgin explained that marketplace, basketball tradition, commitment, financial resources and potential were what the delegation from the Missouri Valley looked for when they visited the universities.
“This is a great university, we’re so proud you’re joining our membership today,” Elgin said.
Moser was excited to see history repeating itself for Loyola. When Moser attended Creighton University in the 1980s, he claimed there was a buzz around the athletic department, even though they were dead last in the conference at the time. Since then, Creighton has been to the NCAA Tournament 11 times in the last 24 years. He claims that “that same feeling … is happening right now at Loyola.”
Part of the reason is that the Reimagine Campaign, a capital improvement program, has moved into athletics. According to Garanzini, “Loyola spent over $300 million to improve the facilities of this campus over the last three years, starting with academics. Then we moved appropriately into the student life realm, and we’ve appropriately moved into athletics.”
While Loyola only averages 2,600 students in attendance at men’s basketball games, just over half the capacity of Gentile Arena, Moser is excited to see what the future brings.
“We have tradition. We lost a little culture, but it’s time to be great again,” Moser said.
by Nick Amatangelo