CARBONDALE — The Missouri Valley Conference formally invited Valparaiso University, a private school in northwest Indiana, to be its 10th member for the upcoming school year Tuesday.
Although the Crusaders are widely expected to accept the invitation, a spokesperson for the school had no comment as to the deliberations. The Valley's presidents council unanimously selected Valparaiso from a pool of four schools to join the league as its 10th member after Wichita State departs for the American Athletic Conference. If Valparaiso accepts the invitation, it will join the Valley on July 1 for the 2017-18 school year.
The league said it would not comment on pending negotiations with the school in a press release, but commissioner Doug Elgin told the Peoria Journal-Star a president-led expansion committee would continue to pursue possible suitors for the league. Missouri State President Clif Smart tweeted the expansion committee will continue to meet over the next nine months to evaluate further expansion opportunities.
Representatives from the Valley also visited Murray State University, the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the University of Milwaukee.
Murray State University does not expect to get an invitation. In a statement to KFVS-TV, Racers athletic director Allen Ward said he was informed Tuesday Murray State would not receive an invitation to join the Valley.
"We’re a proud program with a rich history that I’ll compare to anyone," Ward said. "Our passionate fans are fully engaged with our program and provide a solid foundation for our success. We’ve won four conference championships this year alone and there are many more championship banners in our exceptionally bright future."
The University of Milwaukee, one of the other three schools Valley reps visited, may also be out of the running. Milwaukee athletic director Amanda Braun issued this statement to The Southern:
“It is a tribute to our student-athletes, coaches and staff that we were seriously considered as a finalist in this process. Our focus has always been on winning championships, graduating student-athletes and representing the university in all that we do. We remain committed to that and are excited about the future."
Nebraska-Omaha's sports information office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Elgin, however, told the Journal Star all three schools remain under consideration for future expansion, as well as others not yet determined.
Valparaiso competes in 19 sports, including men's and women's soccer and tennis, and currently plays in the Horizon League. The MVC lured Loyola from the Horizon League in 2013.
The Crusaders' football team plays in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League, and will remain there if it joins the Valley. The Valley Football league, which includes three teams in the Dakotas and Youngstown State, is considered a different entity from the MVC.
Valparaiso's men's basketball team went 24-9 last season, losing at Illinois in the NIT. The Crusaders have made 14 NCAA Tournament appearances, five in the 1960s and 70s in the NCAA's college division and nine since moving to Division I in 1978. Valparaiso has won five Horizon League championships in the last six years.