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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dallas Baptist spurns MVC

By Paul Suellentrop
The Wichita Eagle

Conference realignment bit the Missouri Valley Conference in an unexpected place — baseball membership. Dallas Baptist ended its association with the conference before playing a baseball game.

On Monday, Dallas Baptist officially announced its membership for the 2013 season in the Western Athletic Conference for baseball, the school's lone NCAA Division I sport. Dallas Baptist had entered into a two-season scheduling agreement with the MVC, with the goal of joining that conference as an affiliate member.

However, changes to the WAC and the MVC's slower timetable altered the plan. Dallas Baptist athletic director Ryan Erwin said his school wanted the MVC to offer membership after a visit from conference and school officials last spring. When the Valley opted for the two-season trial, the door opened for the WAC to court Dallas Baptist.

"The disappointment is that we weren't allowed to run full course with the plan," MVC commissioner Doug Elgin said. "We had agreed to conditions and a timeline that I felt was fair both ways. In their minds, they had a better offer with more teams in close proximity and they grabbed it."

Erwin said the hesitation of a small number of MVC schools to sign off on membership concerned him.

"We weren't assured of a spot," he said. "We felt like it was in the best interests of the university to take a sure thing."

The MVC tried to speed up its decision last week after news of the WAC's interest in Dallas Baptist and Cal-State Bakersfield spread. Conference and school administrators joined in a teleconference early in the week and planned more. Elgin said the MVC planned to offer or deny Dallas Baptist membership by Friday.

"We were literally 24 hours from having a decision on them," Elgin said. "We didn't even get to Friday."

It may have been too late — internet sites that specialize in college baseball, such as College Baseball Daily, reported those schools accepted the invitation on Tuesday.

"If we were a member of the Missouri Valley, I'm not sure we would have ever had the discussions with the WAC," Erwin said.

Count Wichita State as one of the schools backing Dallas Baptist for membership.

"We were really excited," athletic director Eric Sexton said. "It made sense — many, many positives. But, as the world changed, there were some opportunities for them."

WSU coach Gene Stephenson liked Dallas Baptist for the travel, the weather, the competition and the potential boost to the conference power ranking.

"It's disappointing and it's too bad it didn't happen," Stephenson said. "We all at Wichita State believed that Dallas Baptist would have been a great addition."

MVC associate commissioner Joe Mitch said not all schools agreed on adding Dallas Baptist, with travel costs one reason. Six of the eight MVC baseball schools needed to approve Dallas Baptist.

"We did not have unanimity by any means," Mitch said. "We had a good mix of schools that were supportive, and those, for various reasons, that were not supportive."

The WAC is undergoing a significant membership change and recently added Texas-Arlington, Texas State and Texas-San Antonio.

"It was our goal to be in a conference," Erwin said. "The WAC made more sense."

Check Paul Suellentrop's Shocker blog at blogs.kansas.com/shockwaves. Reach him at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com.

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