Athletics meets with MVC

By Chris Nelson

NIU athletic department officials met with representatives of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) on campus Monday in an effort to establish possible future relations between the two institutions.

In what could easily be compared to a first date, NIU and MVC officers tried to impress one another. As its message board invited the MVC to “Come Run with the Huskies,” Chick Evans Field House looked as if it were prepared for an NCAA tournament event.

According to NIU Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell, the meeting was not indicative of an imminent move by NIU to the conference, which consists of Southern Illinois University, Illinois State University, Bradley, Indiana State University, Northern Iowa, Drake, Tulsa, Creighton and West Texas State.

“The MVC is considering expansion,” O’Dell said Tuesday. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that they will expand.”

O’Dell said NIU is not unhappy with its current membership in the Mid-Continent Conference (MCC). Nonetheless, O’Dell felt it was in the best interests of the athletic programs to explore all available options.

“If someone offered you a job, you would at least consider it, even if you were presently employed,” O’Dell said.

According to O’Dell, the MVC is scheduled to make its decisions regarding possible invitations by late fall or early winter.

When asked about NIU’s prospects for getting an invitation to the MVC, O’Dell appeared confident.

“They (the MVC) were impressed with the quality of our facilities and programs,” O’Dell said. “NIU has a great deal of athletic and academic integrity.”

O’Dell also noted that the university services, one of the largest markets in the world, aided in part by its proximity to Chicago. Also strengthening NIU’s position is its strong alumni base.

O’Dell said NIU is presently enjoying one of the greatest growth periods in its history. The structural improvements on campus, combined with NIU’s successful Hoffman Estates and Rockford extensions, have made the university more renowned.

Another selling point held by NIU is in the diversity of its athletes.

The university has eight men’s teams and eight women’s teams. Of the total number of athletes receiving scholarships on those teams, 40 percent are women. According to O’Dell, if the football team were factored out of the equation, there would be more women than men on scholarship at NIU, a fact not many schools can boast.

So if NIU can bring all of this to the MVC, what can the MVC bring to NIU?

“I can’t really answer that at this time,” said O’Dell, adding that there are “pros and cons” to membership in any conference. O’Dell said any speculation prior to formal negotiations with the MVC would be premature.

When asked whether NIU’s status in the MCC could be hurt by its conference-shopping, O’Dell did not seem worried.

“I anticipate no friction with the MCC. They were notified of our actions. University affiliation with any conference is consistently fluid across the nation,” O’Dell said.

“I anticipate no friction with the MCC. They were notified of our actions. University affiliation with any conference is consistently fluid across the nation.” Gerald O’Dell NIU Athletic Director