VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) — Valparaiso is officially the newest member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Indiana college accepted the league’s invitation on Thursday and will join on July 1. The Crusaders have been part of the Horizon League since 2007.
Valparaiso was a rumored finalist in 2013 when Creighton left for the Big East. Valley Commissioner Doug Elgin said the school has continued to upgrade its athletic programs over the past four years.
“I think they are just better suited to take on the new challenges that the Missouri Valley will bring,” Elgin said. “They’ve continued to fund athletics in a very appropriate and progressive way. They certainly have continued to be very strong in men’s basketball.”
The Valley, once among the nation’s top mid-major conferences, has been stung in recent years by the loss of two top men’s basketball programs. Valparaiso will take the place of Wichita State, which is leaving for the American Athletic Conference in time for next season.
Valparaiso has made two NCAA tourney appearances the past six years but its last win in March Madness came in 1998. That was the year the Crusaders upset Mississippi on Bryce Drew’s buzzer-beating shot in the opening round and later advanced to the Sweet 16.
Valparaiso will participate in 16 sports in the conference. The Crusaders’ football program is not expected to join the Missouri Valley Football Conference, which has sent at least one team to the FCS championship game in each of the past six years. Instead, it will continue to play in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League.
“We are thrilled to join the Missouri Valley Conference,” Valparaiso President Mark Heckler said. “This is an important step forward for all of our athletics programs and an opportunity to advance the national standing of Valparaiso University.”
The Crusaders spent their first four seasons in Division I as an independent before joining the…