After the Loyola men’s basketball team’s 78-62 routing of Kansas State University in the Elite Eight, Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Commissioner Doug Elgin was ripping signs off walls and hoarding scraps of paper to remember Loyola’s special run.
Elgin has been the MVC commissioner since 1988 and Loyola’s run is great for the conference’s finances and its visibility, according to Elgin.
Every game Loyola wins, the team earns $1.67 million for the conference — capped at five games. Loyola’s four wins so far means the MVC has earned $6.68 million dollars that will be evenly distributed between the 10 members and paid out over six years.
Loyola itself has earned about $405,000 by making the Final Four, according to Elgin.
The money coming to the conference is nice, but Elgin said the visibility and respect the MVC has earned this year is better.
“You can’t put a price tag on what this means for Loyola in terms of [Loyola head coach] Porter [Moser’s] recruiting down the road and attendance,” Elgin said. “This helps the league. We went into the tournament with 10 straight opening-round wins. This is our 11th Sweet 16 appearance and the second time in 30 years we’ve had an Elite Eight appearance, so it’s pretty big.”
The last MVC team to make a run deep into March Madness was Wichita State University in 2013. Wichita State left the MVC in 2017 for the American Athletic Conference and Elgin said it’s more than a little satisfying to have the Shockers watching from home while Loyola is in San Antonio.
“It’s a lot satisfying. I think there’s an understanding both there at Wichita State and elsewhere that this is a statement year for us,” Elgin said. “Loyola led the way in making that statement. When you look at the RPI of the other teams, we don’t have a team below 200. We’ve taken the first step in the transition.”
Elgin has been in charge of the MVC for the additions of both Loyola and Valparaiso University. When Loyola joined the conference in 2013, Elgin said he knew it was a good fit but couldn’t foresee such a run.
“You can’t really expect this type of run out of any school, but in terms of getting them on their feet and becoming a contender, this is about where we thought they’d be. We knew it would take time,” Elgin said. “The university leadership at Loyola is committed, invested in athletics and understands the importance of it.”
The NCAA tournament and its selection committee have moved away from giving mid-major schools such as Loyola and leagues such as the MVC at-large bids. The MVC hasn’t had multiple teams in the NCAA tournament since Wichita State and University of Northern Iowa both made appearances and is a long way from 2006 when the MVC had four teams in the tournament.
The MVC is known as a basketball conference and Elgin said it’s important to get it back to being a multi-bid league. He said Loyola’s run this year helps that effort.
“It was essential that we had some success in the postseason. The fact that we didn’t get a [National Invitational Tournament (NIT)] team this year is a signal that we need to focus on strategic scheduling,” Elgin said.
Strategic scheduling means MVC teams have to work to schedule better non-conference opponents. Elgin pointed to early season tournaments on neutral sites as an option. Loyola’s success this year should help it get into those tournaments that give the Ramblers games against teams from high-major conferences, according to Elgin.
“I think what happens with the Loyola brand, they are now capable of getting into the elite multi-team events,” Elgin said.
Scheduling has been one of Loyola’s biggest challenges. This year Loyola had a home game scheduled against North Carolina State University, but NC State bought the game out. This left the Ramblers with a hole in their schedule when they thought they’d have a strong Atlantic Coast Conference opponent. Scheduling should get easier, according to Elgin.
Loyola — and the nation — almost missed out on the Ramblers’ special run to the Final Four. If the team hadn’t won the MVC tournament, it’d be playing in the NIT. This year, only three mid-major teams received at-large bids and Elgin doesn’t think it’s fair that Loyola wouldn’t have made the tournament if it slipped up in St. Louis.
“I think if you look at Loyola this year, they were underappreciated by the basketball enterprise,” Elgin said. “Their RPI was 22 on Selection Sunday … what do you have to do to get in from a league like ours?”
The MVC hasn’t had a National Champion since University of Cincinnati was in the conference and won back-to-back titles in 1961 and 1962. Ironically, Loyola beat the Bearcats in the 1963 championship. Elgin will be hoping the Ramblers take home the first national title in his tenure as commissioner.