The same Milwaukee-based blog that last fall reported UE was going to the Horizon League is now saying that Illinois-Chicago will join the Missouri Valley Conference.
To PantherU.com’s credit this time — the blog covers Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Horizon League athletics — the Green Bay Press Gazette has also confirmed the news.
Illinois-Chicago was one of a few Horizon League schools, along with the University of Missouri-Kansas City, that MVC leaders were expected to evaluate now that Creighton has officially announced plans to leave for the new Big East Conference.
I spoke with UE president Tom Kazee on Wednesday for a weekend story about the MVC’s realignment situation. Kazee, on his way back from Chicago and a visit to perspective MVC additions, said the league’s presidents council isn’t at a point where it’s ready to vote on new membership.
(Another source, speaking off the record, confirmed that Illinois-Chicago hasn’t been extended an invite yet.)
“Now that Creighton has announced it’s leaving, the presidents council has been in a series of conversations about replacing them,” Kazee said. “Those conversations haven’t gotten very far with respect to finding a new member or members. Now when I say, or members, I’m not suggesting we’d want to be more than 10 members. But if we replaced only Creighton, we’d restore it to 10.
“We’re not at a point where we know how it will all turn out. We do want to move with some dispatch given that we’re coming to the end of one academic year and will be starting the next academic year here in a few months. We’d like to get this resolved in as timely of a manner as possible, but beyond that I can’t really tell you much because it’s in that stage of the conversation where we’re still looking around, and hopefully we’ll be able to move this to a conclusion fairly soon.”
Missouri State’s president added this:
Site visits to prospective valley schools went well. Despite reports on twitter, no decision made on new member. Still couple weeks off.
— Clif Smart (@ClifSmart) April 4, 2013
Illinois-Chicago is a public institution with more than 28,000 students enrolled. The Flames, who have made three NCAA tournament appearances (1998, 2002 and 2004), play in the 6,958-seat UIC Pavilion.
Any moves made effective for the 2013-2014 season need to likely be made before July, though commissioner Doug Elgin has said the MVC can play its next basketball season with nine competing members.
So how long before MVC presidents motion to add a school — if they choose to add one at all?
“That’s a fair question, but I really can’t comment on that,” Kazee said. “It would be fair to say our conversations at the presidents council level have been really wide ranging, and the list of schools that folks have mentioned is quite long. It would be premature for me to say anything more about it than that.
“I say that not because I want to be coy – I don’t – but because if I was the president of an institution that was being considered by a conference, I know I have a lot of homework to do in my own backyard with the board of trustees, alumni and faculty. And I wouldn’t want that work to be made more difficult by a lot of rumor or speculation.”