Updated: Oct 15
Concluding a decade run in the Ohio Valley Conference, Belmont University athletics officially became a member of the Missouri Valley Conference on Friday.
Joining Belmont is OVC rival Murray State University and former Horizon League competitors, the University of Illinois Chicago.
“Today is a great day for Belmont athletics and Belmont University,” Belmont athletic director and vice president Scott Corley said in a press release Friday. “The future is very bright for all of Belmont and Belmont athletics.”
Founded in 1907, the MVC is the third oldest conference in the NCAA behind the Big Ten and the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
The MVC provides a more balanced private to public ratio of competition than the OVC. In total, the MVC now consists of five private schools and seven public universities. While in the OVC, Belmont was the only private university.
Another reason for the switch was due to Belmont’s athletic focus – basketball.
Between the years of 2003 and 2018, the MVC’s annual basketball budget was the 12th highest in the NCAA with an average of $2.1 million. During the same period, the OVC’s yearly basketball budget was only valued at $1.1 million.
During the 2021-2022 season, former MVC school Loyola University Chicago competed in the NCAA basketball tournament on the men’s side as Illinois State University and Missouri State University both competed in the tournament for the women.
After winning the conference on the men’s side in 2021, Loyola advanced to March Madness. Drake also received an at-large bid that season despite falling short in the MVC championship.
On the women’s side, the MVC has sent multiple teams to the NCAA tournament in four of the last five seasons.
“We’re gonna have heightened athletic competition, the Missouri Valley Conference is a very strong league, a basketball-centric league. It’s a league that typically gets 2-3 bids in both men’s and women’s basketball for the NCAA,” Belmont President Greg Jones said in a radio broadcast on 104-5 The Zone. “It also opens up to markets in Chicago and St. Louis, which is also helpful to us for recruiting students, so it’s just a win all around for us.”
“We’re going to continue to ascend in our reputation and our competition level and I think it’s a great thing for Nashville as well,” Jones said.
Belmont now sits in a 12-team conference with universities like Illinois State, the University of Northern Iowa and Valparaiso University, all while keeping the classic rivalry between Murray State alive.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Belmont Athletics
This article was written by A.J. Wuest