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.