Omaha's TD Ameritrade Park opens in 2011 as the home of the College World Series. The Missouri Valley Conference might get a jump on the rest of college baseball and play the first tournament in the new ballpark.
That possibility is the most high-profile example of how competition for the MVC Tournament is increasing. Creighton is in big, playing the prestige chip with college baseball's No. 1 ballpark. The Bluejays make the 24,000-seat stadium their permanent home next April. The school bid on the 2011 MVC Tournament, scheduled for May 24-28.
"It's the home of the College World Series," Creighton athletic director Bruce Rasmussen said. "It's a $140-million stadium built specifically for college baseball. We hope we have the opportunity to play the conference tournament there in some years."
MVC associate commissioner Joe Mitch said Creighton and WSU are bidding on the 2011 tournament, which requires a minimum bid of $25,000. He expects more schools to compete in 2012 and beyond.
Illinois State should be a player, either at its new on-campus stadium or at a nearby park. Indiana State is a possibility with upgraded Warn Field. Missouri State remains in the picture when the Texas League schedule cooperates.
"I think it's good that there are going to be other teams capable of bidding for the tournament, and that want to," Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson said.
Last weekend, the Shockers stayed at a hotel across the street from TD Ameritrade Park. The stadium, still under construction, replaces Rosenblatt Stadium as the CWS home after this summer. Creighton coach Ed Servais, naturally, wants home-field advantage whenever he can get it.
"If Creighton University wants to consider itself one of the better programs in the Valley... we have to start getting involved with that conference tournament," he said. "Wichita's done a great job. Missouri State's done a great job. We're certainly anxious to try to get one in Omaha here sometime soon."
This season's tournament will be the 17th at Eck Stadium since 1990. In many seasons, WSU's bid is unopposed. No other MVC school matches the combination of fan support and facility. MSU hosted in 2004 and 2007, but the Double-A Springfield Cardinals are the prime tenant and securing dates at Hammons Field is difficult. Other sites tried, but found it too expensive.
Illinois State's interest is a year or two away from getting serious, athletic director Sheahon Zenger said. New-look Bass Field is in its first season after a $3-million renovation. It seats around 1,000 fans, and Zenger believes it is capable of hosting.
"We built the press box with the tournament in mind," he said. "We realize it's not the capacity that Wichita has, but we think it's something that would be more than functional."
A 5,500-seat ballpark for a Frontier League team is under construction in Normal. Mitch took a look during a recent trip to judge its suitability.
"Wichita made a commitment to baseball years ago," Zenger said. "We'd like to do our part. We want to grow into our facilities and grow our program and take the necessary intermediate steps."
Filling the roster — WSU's men's basketball team replaced its departing walk-ons with Andover Central's Randall Vautravers (6-foot-6, 175 pounds) and forward Josh Walker (6-8, 245), a transfer from Pittsburg State.
Vautravers grew up as a Kansas State fan. His choice made his grandfather, Ralph Vautravers, quite happy.
"He is a big WSU fan," Randall Vautravers said.
Vautravers expects to redshirt in 2010-11. He considered NCAA Division II schools, including Washburn, before deciding playing close to home at WSU made sense.
"I need to gain weight, wherever I go, and get stronger," he said. "I wanted to redshirt to work on my skills and get stronger. The D-I level is a pretty cool place to play basketball."
Vautravers averaged around 12 points and 9.5 rebounds for Andover Central.
Walker, from Derby, will be eligible after the first semester next season. He started nine games at Pittsburg State in 2009 before transferring to WSU. He redshirted in 2008-09.
"Coming out of high school I always felt like I should have played D-I," Walker said.
Walker, who averaged 4.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in 12 games for the Gorillas, said he added around 30 pounds since high school.
" (WSU coaches) said they expect just as much out of me as they do any other player," he said. "They are definitely on the right track and I think this year is going to be an awesome year for them."
Guard Derek Brown returns as a walk-on. Guard Bryce Mayes and forward Mason Felter left the team.
Back together — Mark Turgeon-era basketball Shockers are reuniting in Colorado.
New Colorado coach Tad Boyle added Jean Prioleau and Mike Rohn to his staff last week. All three were assistant coaches under Turgeon at WSU. Prioleau comes to Colorado from TCU. Rohn followed Turgeon to Texas A&M, where he was director of basketball operations the past three seasons.
Former WSU player Ryan Martin will be close. He is a new assistant coach at Northern Colorado, hired by B.J. Hill, the man who replaced Boyle. Hill was an assistant coach at Coffeyville Community College, where he coached Martin. Martin had been a graduate assistant at UMKC.
Worth noting — Wichita State's men's basketball attendance average of 10,333 ranked No. 41 nationally last season. Creighton, at 14,495, was No. 15. The MVC average of 7,397 ranks eighth among 31 conferences.... New men's basketball assistant Chad Dollar will make $116,000 a year.... Bradley's men's basketball team will play in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament, highlighted by games in Springfield, Mass., against Southern Cal and either Massachusetts or New Mexico State in late November. . . . Illinois State signed a legacy player, and took a poke at its biggest rival earlier this month. John Wilkins, a 6-foot-9 guard, signed with the school, where Jeff, his father, played from 1974-77. John Wilkins gave Bradley an oral commitment in 2008. He will be a sophomore with three seasons of eligibility. He spent the school year at Southeastern Iowa Community College, where he was ineligible. . . . Former Evansville guard Kaylon Williams signed with Wisconsin-Milwaukee after spending a season at Kirkwood (Iowa) Community College.