The Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) will no longer participate in the annual MVC/Mountain West Conference Challenge after the 2018-19 season, MVC commissioner Doug Elgin confirmed during a conference call with MVC coaches and officials and media members. This means a high-profile game will be off the schedule.
The series allows all 10 MVC teams, including Loyola, to play against all 10 Mountain West teams — among them, University of Nevada, Loyola’s Sweet Sixteen opponent in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
Since the MVC is considered a “mid-major” conference — meaning it doesn’t spend as much money on athletics as “high-major” conferences such as the Big 10 and the Southeastern Conference — the challenge gives teams a chance to play higher-caliber opponents, which gives MVC teams more exposure.
Last year, the MVC ranked eighth out of 32 Division I conferences in RPI — the measurement used by the NCAA Tournament selection committee to determine the tournament field — and the Mountain West ranked ninth.
Loyola is set to play Nevada — the teams’ first matchup since the Ramblers’ 69-68 victory over the Wolf Pack in March Madness — as part of the MVC/Mountain West Challenge at Gentile Arena Nov. 27. Nevada ranked 13th in the nation in RPI while Loyola ranked 14th out of 351 teams last year, which shows how strong the matchup is expected to be next season.
Elgin said the four-year contract between the two conferences wasn’t renewed because of an event in Las Vegas next year for the Mountain West, which will create scheduling conflicts between the MVC and Mountain West, but he’s hopeful a similar series could resume starting in 2020.
In the meantime, Elgin said the MVC has reached out to other conferences about starting a series to replace the MVC/Mountain West Challenge so the RPI isn’t affected.
“We do have the final year of the Mountain West Challenge series, a four-year series, that’s going to end this coming season,” Elgin said. “We do have discussions with several Division I leagues about playing, certainly, home-and-home rivalries. I think it’s important to have home-and-home rivalries.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story stated first-years couldn’t sign after the National Letter of Intent deadline. The story has been updated to reflect the correction.