If you played basketball for Wichita State in the 1960s and early 1970s, the addition of Loyola (Ill.) University to the Missouri Valley Conference feels like a reunion.
Loyola has accepted an invitation to join the MVC and will make it official on Friday with the formal announcement in Chicago. Loyola replaces Creighton, which departed last month for membership in the Big East.
Loyola leaves the Horizon League, a conference it joined as a charter member in 1979. It will become an MVC member on July 1.
The MVCs decision, voted on by the nine conference presidents, is a bet on Loyolas future. The school impressed visitors from the MVC with a recent $530 million capital campaign and a willingness to spend on athletics. Now that Loyola is in and other reported candidates such as Illinois-Chicago, Valparaiso and Oral Roberts are out, WSU athletic director Eric Sexton is looking forward to learning more about the school.
Weve had conversations across the department (about Loyola), he said. But not heavily detailed ones. Its a program that has shown a propensity for (fund-raising) and making investments. Its in a major market. It has a footprint to have more of a presence in the Chicago area.
What it lacks is a successful mens basketball program. The Ramblers won the 1963 NCAA title before fading from prominence in the 1970s. They made their last post-season appearance in 1985, advancing to the Sweet 16.
Loyola went 15-16 in 2013, its fifth losing season in the past six. It has never won a conference title or played in the post-season in womens basketball. The volleyball team last won a conference title in 2005 and softball has never won one. It does not field a baseball team.
Change, however, is underway at the Catholic school located on Lake Michigan. Athletic director Grace Calhoun, hired in 2011, hired mens coach Porter Moser that year and hired womens coach Sheryl Swoopes on Friday. Several other coaches are also relatively new, including cross country and track coach Randy Hasenbank, hired in 2011, who coached and ran at Wichita State.
MVC presidents and officials visited Loyolas campus recently and came away sold on the schools plan to invest in athletics. In 2011, it opened renovated Gentile Arena and the Norville Center, a new home for locker rooms and weight training.
Thats a positive in being able to make the commitment, Sexton said. We will continue to evaluate the particulars of Loyola and how we can help them.
Loyola and WSU are old rivals. They played 13 times between 1963-1969, when both teams were nationally prominent. The series continued into the 1970s. It featured several meetings at Chicago Stadium, often as part of a doubleheader. The Shockers and Ramblers met twice (three times in 1970) during the regular season from 1964-74.
That was a big recruiting tool for Wichita State, said former Shocker Art Louvar, who is from the Chicago area. I was a big Loyola fan and when I got a letter from Wichita State, I remembered seeing Dave Stallworth and Kelly Pete.
The series, and the recruiting work of former assistant coach Ron Heller, helped bring Chicago-area players such as Greg Carney, Ron Washington, Greg Rataj and Bill Lang to WSU.
We had a real pipeline in Chicago, said Dave Dahl, who played for WSU from 1968-71.