CHICAGO — Reporters from the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times were at Loyola University Chicago’s Gentile Arena on Monday, as the school formally announced its union with the Missouri Valley Conference at a morning news conference.
However, coverage in the Windy City’s media market for the Ramblers has been slow and sporadic, with DePaul, Northwestern, and even Notre Dame, which is in Indiana, in the race for Chicagoland readers.
Loyola’s move to the MVC aims to change that beginning July 1, when the largest Jesuit Catholic university in the country will become the league’s 10th member.
Loyola will begin competing for Valley championships in 14 sports during the 2013-14 school year. The Valley does not sponsor a championship in men’s volleyball, of which Loyola has a team.
“It’s important that you win, and as Loyola’s program is integrated into the MVC, and they get competitive, I think you’ll get Chicago’s attention,” said Valley commissioner Doug Elgin. “We have alumni and fans here who have been bugging me for years to bring one of the local schools in as a member. I think you’re going to see a lot of different colors in this facility, the first couple years, especially, and down the road, as our teams come in to play.
“We’re going to help Loyola as much as Loyola is going to help us.”
The school of 16,040 was a charter member of the Horizon League in 1979, but ultimately decided the Valley was too good an opportunity to pass up with its history and location. With Loyola, the MVC will now have four members in Illinois (SIU, Bradley, Illinois State and the Ramblers).
“While it’s a tough market, because there’s so much competition for people’s time and activities, we think we bring that Chicago market, and we’re looking forward to staying in a league that’s close to us,” said Loyola president Father Michael Garanzini, S.J. “We’re surrounded by great teams, and we’re looking forward to a great future.”
The move was a major win-win for SIU, which has more than 30,000 alums in Chicago and recruits heavily there. An Amtrak route, called the Saluki Train, goes daily from Carbondale to the Windy City, and now might get even heavier traffic than before.
“I think it’s important for the Valley, but it’s critical for us,” said SIU Athletic Director Mario Moccia. “We at Southern Illinois are always looking for a conduit to our alums. We’ve got over 35,000 alums in Chicago, the greater Chicagoland area, and we’ve never really had a hub.”
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