CARBONDALE — Wichita State could officially join the American Athletic Conference as soon as Friday, according to a report from Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel and ESPN's Andy Katz Wednesday.
Both reported the American Conference's board of directors were planning a vote later this week to potentially add the Shockers for the 2017-18 season. Katz said the board planned to vote on Friday. The Wichita (Kansas) Eagle, among others, has reported the Shockers will accept an invitation if given one.
Several media reports Tuesday said the Missouri Valley Conference called its athletic directors and presidents to St. Louis this weekend to discuss potential replacements for the Shockers if they left the league. With teams like SMU, Cincinnati, Memphis, Connecticut and Temple, the American Conference would be a significantly higher-RPI league than the Valley and a welcome step up for Wichita State in men's basketball, among other sports.
Wichita State is a combined 50-4 in men's basketball conference games the last three seasons. The Shockers tied the Valley record — set by SIU between 2002-07 — with their sixth straight NCAA men's basketball tournament appearance this year. Wichita State finished 31-5 and returns all five starters this winter.
The Shockers were ranked fourth in the country in an early look at the 2017-18 season by The Associated Press this week and sixth by ESPN.com.
SIU athletic director Tommy Bell had no comment Wednesday, when asked about the kind of impact losing Wichita State could have on the Valley moving forward. He addressed the issue in his March newsletter to fans, which was released Thursday.
"Speaking for SIU, we would be saddened if the Shockers elect to leave. They are the league's longest-running member, having joined the Valley in 1945," he said. "With six straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Final Four, their men's basketball program has provided a big boost to the MVC in the years following Creighton's departure. (I should point out that Wichita State is now tied with Southern Illinois for the longest streak of NCAA appearances in league history.) Wichita's programs are strong across the board, they have excellent facilities, and they have tremendous fan support."
The MVC's last shift came in March of 2013, when Creighton left for the Big East. The league reportedly visited Missouri-Kansas City, Valparaiso, Illinois-Chicago and Loyola before inviting the Ramblers. Loyola left the Horizon League after 34 years and accepted the Valley's invitation that April to become the league's 10th member.
The Valley could go a number of directions for another member if Wichita State does, indeed, move out. Missouri-Kansas City would get the league into the Kansas City market, Valparaiso is located in northwest Indiana, and the UIC Flames won two postseason games for the first time in school history this season, albeit in the College Basketball Invitational.
A USA Today report back in 2013 said Valley reps visited Missouri-Kansas City, Belmont, Oral Roberts and Denver before ultimately deciding on Loyola. All four could be strong regional additions. Belmont is located in Nashville, while Oral Roberts is in Tulsa.