CARBONDALE — Saluki fans may not know the direction the Missouri Valley Conference is going after the departure of Wichita State April 7, but they can rest easy their school is being well represented in the process.
Multiple sources have told The Southern Illinoisan SIU athletic director Tommy Bell is a member of the Valley's search committee to pick at least one new school to join the league. Another source confirmed Valley reps did visit Murray State University earlier this week, and that other site visits are planned in the near future.
Bell confirmed Wednesday night he is working with the league on the committee to evaluate different schools. Bell said every Valley program has at least one representative on the committee, typically either an athletic director, president, chancellor or senior women's administrator.
Dave Reynolds of the Peoria Journal Star reported earlier this month the Valley was set to visit Valparaiso of the Horizon League, Milwaukee and Nebraska-Omaha later this week. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports reported the Nebraska-Omaha visit was Wednesday.
It is not clear if the Valley is close to offering an invitation to another school for the upcoming school year, considering adding more than one school, or if it is considering staying at nine teams in 2017-18. MVC commissioner Doug Elgin said after the Shockers announced they were leaving he would not comment publicly on the search until it was over, or had "taken steps to address our current membership issues."
Murray State is the only school of the four mentioned in media reports that has said publicly it is exploring its options of leaving the Ohio Valley Conference. The Racers' board of regents did not mention the MVC when it voted to explore conference options at its most recent meeting.
Valparaiso currently competes in the Horizon League, as does Milwaukee. Nebraska-Omaha, a Division II program until 2012-13, competes in the Summit League.
Bell became SIU's athletic director in May of 2015 after two years at Western Illinois. Previously, he helped the Summit League through several membership shifts between 2007-13, when he was the athletic director at Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne. The Summit League added Denver in 2013, Nebraska-Omaha in 2012 and South Dakota in 2011, and lost Missouri-Kansas City (2013), Oakland (2013) and Southern Utah (2012) during that stretch.
Bell currently represents the Missouri Valley Football Conference as a member of the NCAA Division I regional advisory committee. The committee helps the NCAA championship committee evaluate teams and pick the field of 24 for the playoffs every year.
Bell is also in the middle of a coaching search for volleyball after Justin Ingram left for Illinois-Chicago. Bell said he has been reviewing applications for the position, and hopes to bring the top candidates to campus next week in order to meet the team before finals come into play.