The University of Missouri-Rolla has accepted an invitation to become a member of the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Valley Conference for the 2005-06 season, thus ending an affiliation with the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association that dates back to 1935.
The conference change will be effective following the 2004-05 season and UMR will become a full member of the GLVC beginning in the fall of 2005. UMR, which will end a 70-year membership with the MIAA with this move, will be one of three new members of the GLVC as it will join the league along with Drury University in Springfield, Mo., and Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo., to make the GLVC a 14-team conference.
"As an institution, we are thrilled about being accepted into the Great Lakes Valley Conference," said UMR Chancellor Gary Thomas. "We have had a great association with the MIAA for many years, but this move will allow UMR to join a conference where its institutions share similar philosophies and also expand our visibility throughout a region that serves as our main recruiting base for students.
"In addition, we anticipate this will allow us to reduce the amount of time required for our teams to travel to competitions," Thomas added.
"We are looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead," said UMR director of athletics Mark Mullin. "The Great Lakes Valley Conference is exceptional and will provide an excellent home for our athletic program. We have had discussions on our campus and with alumni over the past year and the consensus has been that this is a good fit for UMR.
"Entering the GLVC with two highly respected institutions Drury and Rockhurst is a plus and will serve to elevate an already outstanding conference," Mullin said.
The current membership in the GLVC includes five of the league’s charter members Bellarmine University (Louisville, Ky.), Kentucky Wesleyan College (Owensboro, Ky.), Saint Joseph’s College (Rensselaer, Ind.), the University of Indianapolis and the University of Southern Indiana (Evansville, Ind.), who along with Ashland University formed the GLVC in 1978.
The other schools currently in the league are Lewis University (Romeoville, Ill.), Northern Kentucky University (Highland Heights, Ky., just outside of Cincinnati), Quincy University (Ill.), Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and University of Wisconsin-Parkside (Kenosha, Wis.). Over the past two years, UMR has competed against every GLVC school in some sport.
"Our institutional representatives have been discussing conference expansion for two years and are delighted to welcome Drury, Rockhurst and Missouri-Rolla to the GLVC," said Jim Naumovich, commissioner of the GLVC. "All three institutions have outstanding academic reputations, strong presidential leadership and boast solid athletic programs. We feel their addition to the GLVC greatly strengthens our conference and provides our member schools with a presence and additional visibility in three new markets."
As a league, the GLVC has enjoyed great success on the field. Kentucky Wesleyan has won eight NCAA Division II titles in men’s basketball, the most of any institution in the division, while Southern Indiana played for the national title this season. Northern Kentucky was the national champion in women’s basketball in 2000 and finished second in the nation in the 2002-03 season. Wisconsin-Parkside and Lewis have been recent national runners-up in softball.
In addition, Quincy and Drury played in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in women’s basketball with Drury reaching the national championship game.
It is a conference that has schools near or in all of a number of major media markets in the midwest, including St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati and Evansville. The expansion of the GLVC will also add Kansas City and Springfield to that list. The GLVC sponsors 17 championships, but does not in football, where UMR will compete as an independent beginning in the 2005 season.
The Pluses of the GLVC for UMR
Mark Mullin, UMR’s director of athletics, explains some of the advantages of the impending move of the UMR athletic program from the MIAA to the Great Lakes Valley Conference:
Joining the GLVC will allow us to compete in conference play in men’s soccer, which we presently cannot do in the MIAA. The football program will play as an NCAA Division II independent, which will allow for greater flexibility in scheduling. It is attractive to have the opportunity to schedule teams like Drake University, whose program is more similar to ours.
All of our other sports that presently have conference play will do so in the GLVC. The competitive reputation of the league is similar to that of the MIAA. There is no question it is an upper-echelon league on the national level.
It is attractive to our coaches and our enrollment management staff to be joining a conference that centers around our major institutional recruiting base. It will also retain a presence in Kansas City (with Rockhurst) and will add a significant presence in Springfield (with Drury).
The MIAA is an exceptional conference. I have a great deal of respect for the membership and those individuals that serve as institutional representatives. We will always hold dear our membership and history we shared with the league.
The decision to move conferences is based on what is in the best interest of our athletics program and our institution. We are excited about the future as a member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference.