ST. LOUIS – The Missouri Valley Conference President’s Council unanimously voted to extend a membership invitation to Valparaiso University, and the Crusaders will begin full participation in all its sponsored sports effective for the 2017-18 season.
“We are truly excited to welcome Valparaiso University to our Missouri Valley Conference family,” said MVC Commissioner Doug Elgin. “Valpo brings a combination of strong athletics tradition and academic excellence, and will be a great fit competing in our league.”
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“This is an exciting time for Valparaiso University and our athletics programs,” said Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D., president. “We are fortunate to join the historic, tradition-rich Missouri Valley Conference. Membership in the Valley will increase the national profile of our institution and our athletics program, and we will undoubtedly contribute to the strength and character of the conference.”
President Dan Bradley, Chair of the MVC Presidents Council, adds: “Valparaiso University has very high academic standards, and will be a wonderful addition to the league. Valpo also has a strong, recognized athletics brand, and many Missouri Valley members are excited at the opportunity to renew old rivalries.”
“The opportunity to become a part of the Missouri Valley Conference is both exciting and humbling,” said Valparaiso Director of Athletics Mark LaBarbera. “It is a recognition of the hard work and commitment of all the coaches and student-athletes that have established the Valpo Athletics tradition. At the same time, it is a challenge to our current and future coaches and student-athletes to continue to grow and improve as we join with nine highly competitive, successful, and nationally recognized universities. As we anticipate the upcoming 2017–2018 season, we are filled with renewed energy.”
Current MVC membership (as of July 1, 2017) includes Bradley University (Peoria, Ill.); Drake University (Des Moines, Iowa); the University of Evansville (Evansville, Ind.); Illinois State University (Bloomington-Normal, Ill.); Indiana State University (Terre Haute, Ind.); Loyola University Chicago (Chicago, Ill.); Missouri State University (Springfield, Mo.); the University of Northern Iowa (Cedar Falls, Iowa); Southern Illinois University (Carbondale); and Valparaiso University (Valparaiso, Ind.).
The Crusaders spent their first four seasons in Division I as an independent before joining the Mid-Continent Conference in 1982. They stayed in the remained Summit League through 2006-07, then jumped to the Horizon League.
Their men’s basketball program is well known for Bryce Drew’s buzzer-beating shot to upset Mississippi and put the team in the Sweet 16 of the 1998 NCAA Tournament.
It was the third straight NCAA appearance for a school that received seven tourney bids during that nine-year stretch. The Crusaders returned to the tournament in 2013 and 2015 as the Horizon League tourney champs — with Drew as coach — but have not won an NCAA Tourney game since 1998.
From the moment Homer Drew, Bryce’s father, was named the head coach before the 1988-89 season, one of the Drews was in charge of the program every years through 2015-16.
After the eldest Drew announced his first retirement following the 2001-02 season, his oldest son succeeded him. Scott Drew stuck around for one season before taking over at Baylor.
Homer Drew then returned to the sideline in 2003-04 and coached until he was succeeded by his other son in 2011-12. Bryce Drew led the Crusaders to NCAA appearances in 2013 and 2015 before taking the Vanderbilt job in 2016. His replacement, Matt Lottich, was promoted from assistant coach.
While basketball is the highest profile program in the athletic department, it’s certainly not the only successful team.
The men’s tennis team won the 2016 Horizon League title and the baseball team reached the NCAA’s baseball tourney in 2012 and 2013. Valparaiso also has appeared in NCAA tournaments in women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and over the past 21 years.