UMKC Looks to Bolt Summit League

It didn’t take long for one of the newest members of the Summit League, the UMKC Kangaroos, to explore options for a new conference. With the departure of Loyola-Chicago to the Atlantic 10 from the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), UMKC has been approached about membership in the MVC and they appear eager to make the leap.

According to published reports, three teams (UT Arlington, UMKC and Murray State) may soon be offered membership by the MVC as the conference eyes expansion. It’s not yet determined, if accepted, if UMKC would join in 2022 or 2023. The basketball team would likely move from on-campus Sweeney Gym to downtown Municipal Auditorium (again) and be expected to build a new on-campus basketball facility.

According to CBS Sports, the only remaining barrier standing in the Roos’ way is its athletic facilities. If the Roos make the financial commitment, especially for a new field house for basketball, they appear to be a cinch for membership.

Missouri Valley commissioner Jeff Jackson has toured all three campuses in recent weeks, according to sources, and there is a presentation tentatively scheduled for MVC presidents the week before Christmas, on Dec. 19.

The allure of UMKC is their geographic location in a large metropolitan area in the middle of MVC country with a vibrant prep hoops scene. The MVC also gives Kansas City a stronger conference, especially in basketball. Current members include Missouri State, Bradley, Drake, Evansville, Indiana State, Illinois State, Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois and Valparaiso . Three new members would take the conference to 12 teams.

In 2017, then UMKC athletic director told The Kansas City Star, “Obviously we would love to be considered,” UMKC athletic director Carla Wilson said. “If we could be more regional with our conference affiliation that would create some geographic rivalries, help our travel and be a benefit to us.” That interest seems to be reignited. Former University of Missouri AD Mike Alden is said to be spearheading the Kangaroo efforts.

The University of Nebraska Omaha made a similar pitch to the MVC several years ago to include an on-campus tour but did not make the cut. Western Illinois has explored other conference options as well, including Ohio Valley conference.

Tiny Augustana College located in Sioux Falls, SD is standing in the wings, ready to pounce on any Summit League opening. The addition of Augustana would add yet another Dakota school to the Summit League while narrowing the conferences footprint yet again.

It feels like just a matter of time until the Summit League is scrambling to replace another member to restore a balanced schedule. This could very well be new commissioner Josh Fenton’s first test as leader. Notably, with the NCHC, he never had to consider membership changes and rebuked every suggestion that the conference should add schools like Minnesota State and Arizona State. The Summit is very obviously different but it will be interesting to watch Fenton handle this UMKC situation.

8 thoughts on “UMKC Looks to Bolt Summit League”

  1. The Summit League feel like an absolute, irrelevant mess — including DU’s laughable basketball contributions. DU is flat out snakebit when it comes to basketball, ever since it’s silly dance with the WAC. Maybe we don’t need a basketball team? I don’t know at this point that it’s adding anything to campus life. And if it’s not, what’s the point? Is there a rule that we must have men’s basketball? Colorado isn’t really a hotbed of hoops. I don’t know what role having basketball in the Summit League plays in supporting the university.

    1. I’ve actually heard this argument before and it does make sense from a $$$ standpoint but yes, you have to have basketball to be in any serious conference

  2. Basketball is a requirement for every D1 conference based on its profit potential. Not sure students would relate that much better with MVC schools. I really think people associate with the west at DU and future growth will be in the west. The WCC is the best option for ‘like’ schools. Frankly, adding Seattle U (Seattle), Grand Canyon (Phoenix) and DU (Denver) to the existing WCC conference would make a dynamic conference.

  3. Dunker here. If DU says we’ll spend major money to get our Summit teams in a new league; that’s only half of the equation. Schools in attractive leagues would probably love to add DU. However, they don’t want to fly to play us in every sport. It’s just too costly. We can’t subsidize other schools. The population bases in our country won’t change much. The Dakota schools will never be a player. Same for the state schools in Idaho and Montana with the exception of Boise State. Our AD has his work cut out for him.

  4. As I see it, there are only three proactive ways for DU to get out of the Summit League and into a better conference, all of which require investment:

    1) Go Hoops Dancin’. Get to the NCAA men’s tournament in hoops — the more times DU gets in, the more attractive DU becomes to other leagues. Improving Basketball RPI will likely need to come with a large hoops facilities investment, as the current set up is 20+ years old and there is no dedicated practice facility for men’s hoops, only shared. Additionally, Hamilton Gym is a poor D-I spectator facility and Magness Arena is too empty at 7K seats. I’m sure a middle ground playing solution is being studied and needs to be funded…

    2) New Sports Mix. By adding more sports that are played by other schools, DU improves its chance of being selected by other conferences. From adding cheap sports like beach volleyball or water polo, to expensive ones such as baseball or football, DU could change the interest level of other conferences. Of course, adding sports and their facilities can be expensive, and care must be taken not to take money from existing DU sports.

    3) Buy Your Way In: This is the most expensive way to do it, but paying for all league opponents travel costs as well as offering a big conference buy-in fee would certainly create some interest in DU, as every league has its price…DU would need a sugar daddy/mommy for this one, and the downside is that DU’s money would go into other peoples’ campuses rather than our own…

    Pick your poison….

  5. I agree with Swami’s 3 ways being it. I think none are likely at all. Number 1 is the most likely ( and highly unlikely given the state of hoops at DU) and only one I would support.

    Two and three are huge waste of resources with no return on investment

    So here we sit. Fortunately not relevant for hockey!

  6. Great article! Just for a little added info from South Dakota (if you care). Augustana University (not college as you have in the article) could be an interesting fit. Yes the school is small but has an endowment larger than three current Summit League teams so its not like they would be bottom of the barrel in that regard. League would also be getting the Sioux Falls market (largest city in SD). Population is small but fans are rabid about sports here….its difficult to explain. Since Augie was turned down by the Summit League they have moved forward with D1 Hockey and will be playing in the NCHC and building a new hockey arena on campus starting this year. They have added numerous higher level academic and arts programs in addition to numerous new campus construction projects. It would make sense travel wise for the conference and Sioux Falls is a city that just won’t stop growing. Would be a quick and easy fix to round out the Summit League.

Leave a Reply