There is now agreement on the timeline for Wichita State’s potential move to the American Athletic Conference, according to common sense and two media outlets.
Both Sports Illustrated and ESPN are reporting that WSU could move all athletic programs to the American by the 2017-18 school year, citing anonymous sources. ESPN’s latest report changes its stance from March 23, in which Andy Katz reported WSU’s move would not happen until 2018-19.
That delay never made sense from the perspectives of those most invested in the change. Of course, Wichita State has not, at least publicly, been invited to join the American and the timing of an invitation and acceptance continues to be unknown.
While no one at WSU is commenting publicly, there is no doubt the school wants to avoid an awkward farewell tour of the nine MVC cities.
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From the American’s perspective, Wichita State’s value is in its men’s basketball program and next season’s version of the Shockers are among the most valuable in the nation, particularly for its potential to earn money for the conference with NCAA Tournament wins.
Sources in Missouri Valley Conference athletic departments say they, as media reports intensified in recent weeks, are facing the reality of WSU’s departure. As is the case consistently in this matter, school and conference officials request anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.
“I don’t think anyone is surprised,” said an athletic department official at an MVC school. “Wichita State made its position known. Maybe it’s little bit surprising that they could be gone as soon as next school year.”
Southern Illinois athletic director Tommy Bell addressed the issue in his newsletter to fans.
“Speaking for SIU, we would be saddened if the Shockers elect to leave,” he wrote. “Wichita’s programs are strong across the board, they have excellent facilities, and they have tremendous fan support.”
On Thursday night, Sports Illustrated Pete Thamel’s story said the move could happen by 2017-18. On Friday morning, ESPN’s Katz chimed in with similar timing in his report.
“There’s strong mutual interest between both sides, and sources said that a final decision could be made within the next month or in as few as the next two weeks,” Thamel wrote. “Any decision would need to be approved by the American Athletic Conference’s presidents, but the mutual interest is strong enough where neither side sees any looming issues.”
Two sources in college athletics say that 2017-18 sports schedules are fluid enough into early summer to make the move possible. However, MVC volleyball schedules are set, according to a school source, and Tulane recently released its 2017 volleyball schedule, complete with American opponents.
While those details add to the complexity of the switch as the days go by, they are not seen as an impediment to the basketball-driven move.
AAC members are Houston, Memphis, Tulsa, Tulane, SMU, Temple, South Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina, Central Florida and football-only Navy.
Wichita State would give the American a 12th basketball-playing member. The addition of football is not a consideration for WSU.
Exiting the MVC is not complicated. WSU president John Bardo must provide written notice, by registered mail, to the top conference officials.
There is no exit fee, which people at MVC schools say is a condition Wichita State argued for, against the wishes of most other schools, in 2013 when Creighton joined the Big East.
According to the MVC constitution, a school must give 24 months notice for withdrawal to keep all of its distributions (meaning mostly NCAA Tournament money). A school forfeits all its MVC distributions if it gives less than 12 months notice.
That means Wichita State, should it withdraw soon, would give up future MVC distributions. It would also likely pay an entrance fee to join the AAC.
Each NCAA Tournament game is worth around $1.6 million, paid to the conference. The conference then pays to the schools over a six-year period.
The Shockers, for example, accrued three units in 2016 and two in 2017.
Wichita State’s potential move appears, at least in some ways, behind Creighton’s timing when it exited the MVC in 2013. There is, sources in college athletics point out, an important difference in the situations. The Big East needed new members to add to its seven existing schools, which added urgency to the process. The American can proceed to 2017-18 without an addition, if necessary.
By late February, Creighton knew an invitation was possible. By March 7, Creighton had permission from its Board of Trustees to accept an invitation.
On March 13, Creighton had received an invitation via phone, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Two days later, Creighton informed MVC commissioner Doug Elgin.
On March 20, the Big East introduced its new lineup of 10 schools, including new members Creighton, Butler and Xavier.
Not all departures move so quickly. Louisville and Rutgers played one season (2013-14) in the American before moving on. The American responded by raiding Conference USA for Tulsa, East Carolina and Tulane and all three rode out a lame-duck season in their old conference.
Around the AAC in men’s hoops
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