WICHITA, Kan. — Since Wichita State’s latest Arch Madness triumph, it has been a question of when, not if, the Shockers bolt from the Missouri Valley.
Schools of the American Athletic Conference voted unanimously Friday to welcome Wichita, which will pay $2.5 million to join traditional men’s basketball powers like UConn and Memphis, along with Cincinnati and SMU.
“I think this shows that Wichita State University and schools across the country are buying into the bright future this conference has, and we’re extremely pleased,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said in a conference call.”
But what does this mean for the Valley? Since Creighton left for the Big East in 2013, Wichita has represented the league each season in the NCAA Tournament. It has been a one-bid league three of the last four years, and the MVC just lost the program that has been the face of the conference.
Valley coaches, including those at Missouri State, were asked not to comment on the matter. However, conference commissioner Doug Elgin said in a statement, “The news today of Wichita State University’s departure brings us to another stage in the evolution of our league. The Valley has always been resilient and progressive in the face of these changes, and we have never been defined by a single institution.”
Whomever replaces the Shockers – Saint Louis, Valparaiso and Belmont are popular guesses – will not bring the prestige or the fan base that has helped keep the Missouri Valley a step above other mid-major conferences.
Some conference realignments take time. This one is immediate. Wichita joins the American July 1, and some of its final Valley events will be in Springfield. The Shocker baseball team plays Missouri State the weekend after Easter, and the school’s final MVC competition will be the conference tournament at Hammons Field in late May.