by Kent Sterling
Conference realignment isn’t just for BCS schools. When Butler left the Horizon League prior to last season, there was no question other shoes would drop, and when Butler, Creighton, and VCU abandoned their respective ships, mayhem became imminent.
Loyola is likely the first of several shoes to drop, and those shoes might land on the Horizon Leagues head. UIC and Valpo are rumored to be under consideration for a similar trip to the Valley. That would eviscerate the Horizon League, and perhaps trickle down to the Summit League, as that conference would be a likely target if the Horizon League wants to remain viable.
The invitation from the Valley to Loyola was confirmed by a source with the Valley with direct knowledge of the negotiations confirmed that the Valley and Loyola have an agreement in principle, “and are working out details this week with a formal announcement coming on Friday, April 19.”
A member of the Loyola athletic department staff confirmed rumors that Loyola was chosen over UIC, but had no knowledge of any continuing discussions between the Valley and either UIC or Valpo.
The Valley has moved quickly to fill the tenth spot vacated by Creighton, while a year ago the Horizon League went forward with the 2012-2013 academic year with nine. Now, there are eight. In a month or two, there might be six. That’s a good number for a bridge tournament, not a collegiate athletic conference.
It’s hard to guess where the Horizon League might go to find two replacements – much less four. IUPUI fits as a non-football school based in a metropolitan area within the geographic footprint that allows for easy travel by bus. Beyond that, the pickings get thin. IPFW works geographically, as does Oakland, but there are other areas in which they don’t quite measure up.
As for Loyola, it might seem odd for the Valley to welcome a perennial bottom feeder from a lesser conference, but the landscape has changed over the last few years at the Rogers Park campus.
The Gentile Center has been redesigned, Porter Moser was hired, and the on-campus construction has transformed the university into a beautiful destination for students looking for an idyllic setting in an urban setting.
There is no reason that Loyola can’t recruit at the level of the Valley and beyond. The education is high quality, talent in and around Chicago is solid, and the university has its own private campus beach on Lake Michigan.