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NORMAL — The Missouri Valley Conference will remain a 10-team league, at least for the next year.

The MVC Presidents Council unanimously voted to extend a membership invitation to Valparaiso University, effective July 1, the MVC announced in a statement Tuesday morning.

The league said it will have no further comment pending the negotiation of terms. That is expected to take a week or less.

Valparaiso, a private school of 4,500 students located in northwest Indiana, would replace Wichita State, which opted in early April to leave the MVC after 72 years for the American Athletic Conference.

MVC representatives reportedly went on campus visits to Valparaiso, Murray State, Milwaukee and Omaha. There was talk of possibly adding three schools and breaking into two six-team divisions, but the MVC presidents decided to stay at 10 teams, which has been the number since 1996.

However, that could be changing.

Missouri State president Clif Smart wrote on Twitter: “The (MVC) expansion committee will continue to meet for the next 9 months to evaluate further expansion opportunities.”

Illinois State athletic director Larry Lyons confirmed “this is not the end of the discussion for membership.”

“They (the expansion committee) will look down the road to see if other folks can help us in the future,” he said.

Lyons added the process of the league in the last month, which involved school presidents, faculty representatives, athletic directors and senior women's administrators, was “thoughtful and thorough.”

“The presidents weighed all the evaluations and decided who to extend an invitation,” said Lyons.

Murray State athletic director Allen Ward also issued a statement:

“Today I was notified that Murray State will not be receiving an invitation to join the Missouri Valley Conference. I am in no way disappointed by the news or have any regrets being involved in the process. Our goals and objectives to graduate our student-athletes, win championships, promote this great university, and a be a player on the national scene have not changed and were never reliant on the outcome today.”

This is the second time in the last four years the MVC has added a school from the Horizon League. Loyola was tabbed in 2013 after Creighton left for the Big East Conference.

Valparaiso's addition would give the MVC a 50-50 split of public schools (Illinois State, Southern Illinois, Indiana State, Northern Iowa, Missouri State) and private schools (Loyola, Bradley, Drake, Evansville, Valparaiso).

The Crusaders have 19 varsity sports. Valparaiso's football team competes in the non-scholarship Pioneer League.

Valparaiso has made a name for itself in men's basketball, although not on the scale of Wichita State.

The Crusaders gained national acclaim in 1998 when they reached the NCAA Tournament's Sweet Sixteen. Valparaiso has been to the NCAA tourney nine times. Seven of those came under coach Homer Drew between 1996 and 2004.

Drew's sons, Scott and Bryce, have also coached Valparaiso before Matt Lottich took the job a year ago.

This past season, Valparaiso was led by senior all-American Alec Peters and shared the Horizon League regular-season championship while compiling a 24-9 record. The Crusaders lost in the National Invitation Tournament's first round to Illinois as Peters sat out with a knee injury.

Valparaiso plays basketball and volleyball in the Athletics-Recreation Center, a 5,400-seat facility.

​Follow Jim Benson on Twitter: @pg_benson



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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