Valpo In The Valley: A New Era
Monday, July 3, 2017
Valpo In The Valley: A New Era

With its move to the Missouri Valley Conference, Valparaiso University joins the nation’s second-oldest NCAA Division I conference. Learn more about the history of the MVC, Valpo’s conference affiliations and rivalries with former conference foes which will be renewed in our first installment of the #ValpoInTheValley series.

The Valley

The origins of the Missouri Valley Conference, which is entering its 111th season of competition in 2017-18, date back in January of 1907.

Eight administrators representing five institutions – Washington University in St. Louis and the state universities of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska – met at the Midland Hotel in Kansas City, Mo. to form the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

Two months after the initial meeting, Drake University and Iowa State College were admitted, giving the MVIAA seven member institutions as it debuted with competition in basketball in the fall of 1907.

Over the years, schools have come and gone from The Valley, with Valpo being the 34th institution to earn full membership as an MVC program. But recently, The Valley has enjoyed relative stability in the midst of rampant conference realignment, as Valpo is just the second new program added to The Valley in the last two decades.

Current conference membership includes the following 10 institutions (year joined in parentheses):

-Bradley University (1948; withdrew 1951, returned 1955)
-Drake University (1907; withdrew 1951, returned 1956)
-University of Evansville (1994)
-Illinois State University (1981)
-Indiana State University (1977)
-Loyola University Chicago (2013)
-Missouri State University (1990)
-University of Northern Iowa (1991)
-Southern Illinois University (1975)
-Valparaiso University (2017)

The Valley added women’s athletics under its umbrella on July 1, 1992, absorbing the Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference, which began competition in 1982. The MVC currently sponsors 17 sports: baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country and track & field (indoor and outdoor), men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, women’s swimming and diving, women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball.

The Valley has enjoyed success across the sporting spectrum throughout its illustrious history. The conference owns a total of 32 postseason national team championships and student-athletes have earned 73 NCAA individual championships. The conference boasts 47 National Player/Coach of the Year selections, as well as 16 National Academic Players of the Year.

Valpo’s Conference Affiliation

Formed in 1922, the Indiana Intercollegiate Conference became Valparaiso University’s first athletics conference, as Valpo joined the IIC for competition starting in 1925. Valpo remained an IIC member until the conference split into two in 1950, as the Crusaders joined five other institutions in founding the Indiana Collegiate Conference.

Valpo was one of three institutions to stick with the ICC all the way from its inception in 1950 until the conference officially disbanded in 1978. After a few years as an independent, Valpo became a founding member of the Association of Mid-Continent Universities – eventually known as the Mid-Continent Conference – to start the 1982-83 season.

Around this same time, Valpo’s women’s programs started associating with the North Star Conference, as some teams began participating in NSC play as early as 1983. The Crusaders’ women’s teams became full-fledged members of the North Star Conference in 1987 and remained conference members until the Mid-Con absorbed the NSC in 1992, uniting Valpo’s men’s and women’s programs under the same conference umbrella.

After 25 years as a member of the Mid-Con, Valpo departed for the Horizon League in 2007, where it competed for the last decade before accepting the invitation from the Missouri Valley Conference in late May of this year.

Renewing Rivalries

The move to the Missouri Valley Conference reunites Valparaiso University with a number of former conference foes, spanning the entirety of the Crusaders’ history of conference affiliation.

Most notably, Valpo shares conference membership with a pair of long-time in-state rivals in Evansville and Indiana State. ISU was a charter member of the Indiana Intercollegiate Conference in 1922, while Evansville joined at the same time as Valpo in 1925. When the conference split occurred, Evansville, Indiana State and Valpo all became founding members of the Indiana Collegiate Conference. Indiana State departed the ICC in 1968, while Evansville left the conference in 1977.

Three current MVC institutions were founding members of the Association of Mid-Continent Universities, as Missouri State and UNI helped form the conference alongside Valpo in 1982. Missouri State remained in the conference until 1990, while UNI left the following year – both schools going directly from the Mid-Con to The Valley.

Most recently, Valpo and Loyola were both members of the Horizon League from the time the Crusaders joined the league in 2007 until Loyola’s departure for the MVC in 2013. In addition, while they have never been full members of the same conference, Valpo and Drake share a football membership in the Pioneer Football League, which both schools helped found in 1991.