Wichita State’s departure provides opportunity in Missouri Valley Conference

You may have missed the announcement last week when the American Athletic Conference commissioner,  Mike Aresco, announced the addition of Wichita State to the AAC in men’s and women’s basketball and Olympic sports beginning July 1. That would leave an opening in the Missouri Valley Conference.

According to SB Nation, “A list of possibilities has been reported, including Valparaiso, Belmont, UMKC, Omaha, the four Dakota schools and more. The decision will likely come down to numerous factors, such as geographical fit, financial stability, and basketball relevance.”

Should DU consider throwing its hat in the ring to replace the Shockers?

The short answer: no.

Denver, at various times, has been rumored as a possible candidate for the Missouri Valley. But really, does the Missouri Valley have any more compelling match-ups for local fans than the Summit League? Would Drake, Bradley and Northern Iowa send locals to the ticket line? What about a date with Evansville, Indiana State or Loyola (Chicago)? Oh, and who could forget Southern Illinois and Indiana State?

Travel would be no less costly, no easier and many of the Valley universities are no more academically aligned with DU than the Summit League. Nor would Denver’s path to March Madness be any easier.

Sure, the Summit League is not the ideal partner for Denver at this point, but it is better than DU’s former WAC affiliation – a group of vagabond programs that is powering up next year by adding California Baptist. Add Grand Canyon, Rio Grande, and Chicago State and you have the exact opposite of what DU is looking for.

Despite early trepidation, the Summit League is actually turning into a good fit for Denver. Since joining the Summit League in 2013, Denver fans are just getting used to our rivals. And, the addition of North Dakota next season is a plus. It is a stable conference for Denver where Denver has a solid opportunity to compete successfully.

Denver needs to bide their time and only make a change if one of the following four things happens.

  • Like Schools – If the West Coast Conference approaches Denver for membership, DU should take it. The WCC is the very best fit for Denver, but it won’t happen without a vastly improved hoops program.
  • Regional Footprint – If the Mountain West dropped its football requirement, this option would offer great regional rivalries. But there are lots of other schools, many with football, waiting breathlessly on their doorstep. This isn’t happening anytime soon.
  • New Private University Conference – A new conference is forged and comprised of high profile private universities that exit their current leagues (Drake, SMU, Tulane, Seattle, etc.) in the future. This will take a collapse of several conferences and appears highly unlikely at this time.
  • National Footprint – The Big East came calling (it’s a pipedream) – but Creighton did it. Again, DU would need to raise their basketball profile considerably to get in the conversation. It would take years and a very long track record of hoops success.

The reality is that the Pioneers sit on an island in the middle of Colorado. DU’s options are limited.

The Summit League is stable and growing with the addition of North Dakota (yeah, them).

And, DU’s Summit League affiliation doesn’t limit Denver’s ability to play national powers. Denver can still line up against top teams in their non-conference schedule, energize their fans, and build a national reputation – see DU men’s soccer as the perfect model. DU women’s volleyball might be the next emerging program on the national scene and they can follow the same blueprint.

And the DU’s athletic department has smartly lined up many other non-conference sports with great conference affiliations such as Lacrosse in the BIG EAST, Gymnastics in the Big 12, Hockey in the NCHC, and skiing in the RMISA.

The most obvious path is to build a strong basketball program over the next 5-7 years and make a run at the West Coast Conference. It can be done – it will just take patience.

2 thoughts on “Wichita State’s departure provides opportunity in Missouri Valley Conference”

  1. Patience is a virtue, but not one of my strengths. I’d love to see Peg make one big splash before she retires. We can bring to any league we join the largest TV marketplace of schools who might be looking for a new affiliation. We also add some much needed panache due to our success in the Olympic Sports.
    1. WCC. Best fit by far. Outside of hoops, we give them a major boost in all the Olympic sports. They have enough baseball teams w/o us. BYU needs to depart.
    2. Missouri Valley. Not great names, however, many remaining Mo. Valley schools have at some point in the modern era been a major player in college hoops. (my modern era is longer then most because of my age) The following current Mo. Valley schools have participated in the Final Four: Bradley numerous times, Drake with HOF coach Maury John , Indiana State, Loyola Chicago-winner. NIT final 4 participants when the NIT was the biggest post season tournament: Bradley winner, Loyola, Illinois State with Doug Collins who was an US Olympic hero, Indiana State with Larry Legend, Southern Illinois with Walt Clyde Frazier, Drake NCIT winner. So decent hoops, easy travel and we give them a huge TV market. Most of our Olympic sports can transfer there and raise MO Valley profile.
    Big East- Dream League. Our Olympic sports fit in well and we already have our lax teams in the League. BE promotes having won a 2015 NC in men’s lacrosse. Big cities means easy travel. OK, I know, basketball rules here. However, almost every BE game is a war. Coaches in power conferences like a league breather every now and then. The thought of going 2-10 is a lot easier to swallow then 0-12. That is why historically Rutgers, Vandy, Northwestern, BC, Wake, Depaul, Rice, and Oregon State play with the big boys (notice, 6 privates in that group). Boone very popular from Providence to DC.

    Through pure osmosis, our hoops will get good if we join a name conference. Love the Summit, but it’s NCAA hoops history is not on even the most sensitive radar charts.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. With our unique location and unique sports mix, DU is not a very desirable addition for any conference that is better than we enjoy now.

    The only way to move into something like the WCC, or even the Big East would be to get our men’s basketball to a consistent 20-23 wins per year for 5 years in a row, and get some NCAA tourney traction. It’s going to take a while.

    Our hoops budget of $3.3 million is good for the Summit, but it probably needs to be in the $5-10 million arena to get any interest from the Big East.

    The MVC is really not much of an upgrade in terms of local Denver spectator interest without Creighton and Wichita State.

    Liked by 1 person

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