Valparaiso University accepted an invitation to join the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) May 25. The move will be official July 1.
Valparaiso will come to the MVC from the Horizon League, the conference Loyola was in prior to joining the MVC in 2013. The Crusaders will replace Wichita State University, who left for the American Athletic Conference April 7.
“We are truly excited to welcome Valparaiso University to our Missouri Valley Conference family,” MVC Commissioner Doug Elgin said in a press release. “Valpo brings a combination of strong athletics tradition and academic excellence, and will be a great fit competing in our league.”
Valparaiso president Mark A. Heckler also released a statement in the press release about the transition, saying both athletics and academics will both be impacted.
“This is an exciting time for Valparaiso University and our athletics programs,” Heckler said. “We are fortunate to join the historic, tradition-rich Missouri Valley Conference. Membership in the Valley will increase the national profile of our institution and our athletics program, and we will undoubtedly contribute to the strength and character of the conference.”
Valparaiso will compete in all 17 sports the MVC offers, according to a press release. Its football team is part of the Pioneer League and its women’s bowling team is not affiliated with a conference. Valparaiso’s men’s tennis and men’s swimming teams will likely compete in conferences to be named later, according to Paul Oren of the Northwest Indiana Times.
Loyola Athletics Director Steve Watson said while the MVC added a quality athletic school by bringing in Valparaiso, the academics make the conference better, too.
“It’s a historic day for the conference to bring somebody in like Valpo,” Watson said. “It speaks to the quality of the league and our conference, and we’re just excited to bring in such a great athletic institution … that’s also good academically.”
When word got around that Valparaiso was joining the MVC, Watson said he got an email from Loyola’s Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Laura Baker that simply said “road trip!” Given that Valparaiso is located in Indiana 66 miles southeast of Chicago, he thinks there are ways the fans can get involved in rekindling the rivalry from the Horizon League. Loyola and Valparaiso played in the Horizon League together from 2007-2013.
“It’s a close game, it’s a conference game and something [where] we can throw some people on a bus, head on down the road and hopefully have a great group of Rambler fans in the stands as we play them,” Watson said.
Wichita State was a men’s basketball powerhouse in the MVC, winning the MVC tournament in 2014 and 2017 and making the NCAA tournament each of the last six years, but Valparaiso’s men’s basketball team has had some recent success that could help fill the void. In the 2015-16 season, the Crusaders made the NIT championship game in the middle of a stretch in which they won 82 games.
Loyola men’s basketball head coach Porter Moser said he‘s excited that Valparaiso is joining the conference.
“I think it’s a great addition,” Moser said. “We’re bringing in a very established, tradition-oriented program … I think Valpo has great history with its basketball program.”
Moser also added that there’s potential for an ongoing battle for regional domination between northwest Indiana and Chicago because of how close the two schools are.
“Proximity is great for us,” Moser said. “Our fan base is familiar with Valparaiso. The proximity bodes well for a great rivalry.”
Loyola men’s basketball is 34-15 all-time against Valparaiso, and the Ramblers will look to extend their lead in the series next season when the teams meet for the first time since Feb. 19, 2013.