After 72 years in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), Wichita State University announced on April 7 that it will be leaving the MVC for the American Athletic Conference (AAC) following a unanimous vote by the AAC board of directors to extend an invitation to the Shockers.
The Shockers are the second longest tenured team in the MVC. Drake University is the longest, which has been with the conference since 1907.
The Shockers will join the AAC on July 1 and bring all 15 of their sports teams. Wichita State will be the AAC’s 12th member with a basketball team.
The move comes in the wake of Wichita State’s stunningly low 10 seed in the NCAA tournament after losing just one conference game all season. The Shockers, who have developed a nationally ranked basketball program over the past five years, have received a bid to the NCAA tournament every year since 2012.
“It became clear to us that The American offered the best combination of universities that share our academic and cultural values and research focus,” Wichita State President John Bardo said in an official statement on the school’s athletics website.
The AAC is perceived as a stronger conference than the MVC, which could give the Shockers more national attention. The AAC usually receives two or more bids to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, including four in 2016. The conference includes perennial tournament teams such as the University of Cincinnati and the University of Connecticut, who is a four-time national champion.
AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco said he is pleased with his conference’s expansion.
“This is a university with a strong athletic and academic heritage which shares our conference’s commitment to excellence, and we look forward to having them as a member,” said Aresco said in an official statement.
The MVC wasn’t immediately available for comment, but is expected to meet on April 9 in St. Louis to discuss the future of the conference without Wichita State and what school will fill the empty 10th spot.
Some members of the MVC said they didn’t want Wichita State to leave the conference. Loyola Athletic Director Steve Watson said Wichita State has a give-and-take relationship with the MVC — the conference brings as much to the Shockers as they bring to the MVC.
Watson wasn’t the only MVC athletic director to come out against the move. Missouri State Athletic Director Kyle Moats told Ozarksportszone.com that losing Wichita State would be “a hit for the conference.”
The Shockers have won four consecutive MVC regular season championship titles. Wichita State, which most recently was honored the co-champion with Illinois State this season, has 11 regular season titles.
The Shockers are four-time MVC tournament champions, winning the title in 2014 and 2017. They also made two Final Four appearances during their time in the MVC, in 1965 and 2013.