One of college basketball's mid-major powers could be leaving their conference. The American Athletic Conference is currently in talks for Wichita State to leave the Missouri Valley Conference as soon as the 2017-18 season, according to Sports Illustrated.
If the Shockers do leave for the AAC immediately, who might replace them? The MVC could wait — which would leave them with just nine schools — but waiting would ensure an addition isn't rushed that may cause unfavorable long-term agreements and unforeseen complications.
However, if they do expand, it could be done in one of the following ways:
- Add one non-football-playing school.
- Add one or multiple football-playing member(s) of the Missouri Valley Football Conference moves other sports to the Missouri Valley.
- Add multiple non-football-playing schools in anticipation that other current members may leave in the future.
- Add three total schools, two of which are football-playing and would also join the Missouri Valley Football Conference, giving the MVFC 12 schools.
Here are few (purely speculative) options if the MVC does expand after Wichita State's departure:
Youngstown State has been in the Missouri Valley Football Conference since 1997. They reached the FCS Championship last year but have seen minimal success in football since 2000. In their primary conference, the Horizon League, their success has been spotty.
Triumphs in track and cross country have been overshadowed by struggles elsewhere, namely men's basketball, which hasn't won more than 18 games since joining the conference in 2001. They do have the second-largest athletics revenue in the Horizon (via USA Today) and could be intrigued into expanding their footprint.
All three primary Summit League schools play football in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. It would take a monumental effort to move three schools before the 2017-18 academic year, therefore this shift would likely occur in 2018 at the earliest.
None of the three have deep Summit roots — NDSU and SDSU joined in 2007 and South Dakota in 2011 — and could be tempted to become all-Missouri Valley members. There are no indications the three schools are a package deal but it's reasonable to assume it'd be more attractive for both them and the conference.
Omaha competes in the Summit League in all sports besides hockey (National College Hockey Conference). They are a non-football-playing school who was highly successful in Division II before transitioning to Division II in 2012.
Following the elimination of football and wrestling during the transition, the athletic department has slowly been growing, particularly in men's basketball, which has 17 or more wins in three of their five D1 seasons.
Their jump would give the city of Omaha a return to the MVC after Creighton left for the Big East in 2013.
Another Horizon member, non-football-playing Oakland jumped from the Summit in 2013. They've been outstanding in men's basketball, with six 20-win seasons and one NCAA Tournament bid since 2008, and rank just current MVC members Northern Iowa and Indiana State in department revenue.
The Grizzlies' inclusion would move the MVC's current market further east and north and would give the conference a decent basketball replacement for Wichita State.