Missouri Valley Conference loses Loyola Chicago, but sues Murray State, UT Arlington and Kansas City

The Missouri Valley is ambitiously pursuing a plan to add multiple schools, sources told CBS Sports. The three schools in the mix are Murray State, UT Arlington and Kansas City. At this stage, they are expected to eventually receive invitations to join the Valley, with sources telling CBS Sports that Murray State and UT Arlington are considered the two strongest candidates.

There are some lingering questions with Kansas City’s (formerly UMKC) facilities that need to be ironed out in the coming months to confirm her status as a legitimate candidate. Missouri Valley Commissioner Jeff Jackson has visited all three campuses in recent weeks, according to sources, and a presentation is scheduled for MVC presidents the week before Christmas, Dec. 19.

The invitations aren’t forthcoming — meaning they won’t officially take place in the coming weeks — but clear progress is being made toward enlargement. It has not yet been determined whether any of those schools will be formally accepted, or whether they will join in 2022 or 2023. Murray State is a member of the Ohio Valley Conference. UT Arlington is located in the Sun Belt. In 2020, Kansas City rejoined the Summit League (where it was a member from 2007-2013) after leaving an ill-fated residency at the WAC.

In September, The Valley announced Belmont as a prospective member, starting in July 2022, a move that was met with critical acclaim.

The news coincides with Tuesday’s headline that Loyola Chicago will leave the Missouri Valley after nine seasons to join the Atlantic 10 in 2022. A source told CBS Sports that Loyola Chicago has been making its pitch privately since the beginning of the summer to to join the Atlantic 10. While it wasn’t a deciding factor, a source said the trio of schools the MVC is currently considering weren’t nearly enticing enough to make Loyola Chicago hesitant about jumping to the A-10.

Sources also said the A-10 is not in danger of losing any of its 14 members, meaning the conference will expand to 15 from July next year. Loyola Chicago will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

As for the potential new members of the Missouri Valley, the appeal to Murray State is clear and most obvious. It is one of the most successful mid-major programs in men’s basketball, with 17 NCAA Tournament appearances to its credit. The school previously failed in its campaign to join the Valley in 2017, when league presidents chose Valparaiso over the Racers. Since then, Murray State has gone 92-33 under Matt McMahon, won an NCAA Tournament game, made two NCAA tournaments, and produced Ja Morant the #2 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The only thing holding Murray State back was the remoteness. location and lack of a metropolitan area. That no longer seems to be a sticking point for MVC presidents.

UT Arlington and Kansas City are candidates for one big reason: their proximity to major media markets. Arlington is located in the greater Dallas area, which is by far its biggest selling point and what attracts MVC presidents to expand the conference’s appeal geographically. UT Arlington isn’t legendary, though; it has one NCAA Tournament appearance (2008). Kansas City, which lies at the heart of MVC territory, has vowed to return to play at the Municipal Auditorium. The historic arena has hosted more NCAA Tournament championship games (nine) than any other venue. For Kansas City to be a viable candidate, there must be “spades in the ground” for new facilities as soon as possible, according to one source.

Another reason there’s optimism within the Kansas City athletics department: Former Missouri athletics director Mike Alden — who took Missouri out of the Big 12 and into the SEC nearly a decade ago — is said to be heavily involved in the school field. So far, those in power at that school remain very optimistic about entering the Valley, partly due to the fact that Kansas City as a metropolitan area is one of the more robust media markets for college basketball in the country.

A source told CBS Sports that there is currently an opportunity for a school other than the three favorites for the MVC, but at this stage it is those three that are in the best position. If everyone entered, the Valley would come to 13 teams — the most in its 114-year history.

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