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Loyola says move to Missouri Valley Conference is a brand slam

Updated: May 21, 2013 6:28AM

After spending all 34 years of its athletic history in the Horizon League (formerly the Midwestern City Conference and Midwestern Collegiate Conference), Loyola officially announced Friday that it would be moving to the Missouri Valley Conference.

The university held a joint news conference at Gentile Arena with the Missouri Valley, which said the move would become effective July 1.

Loyola reportedly was among four schools considered for the spot vacated by Creighton, which left the Missouri Valley for the newly formed Big East. UIC was among those being considered by the conference, but Loyola’s financial dedication to its athletic programs was a determining factor.

“We felt very clearly that there was a commitment here,” Missouri Valley commissioner Doug Elgin said. “In the snapshot in time, maybe the level of competitiveness here was not ideal. But we know that [university president Michael Garanzini] is not going to allow athletics to be anything but competitive in our league. I think that was a big factor, quite honestly.”

The Ramblers recently renovated Gentile Arena and upgraded the Norville Center, which houses all team locker rooms, offices for coaches and athletic administrative staff, a weight room, a training room and an academic center.

Loyola also has made upgrades to its soccer and softball facilities and is actively looking to add additional training space for its teams.

For the Ramblers, it provides an opportunity to join a league that can provide increased revenue and raise the profile of the entire athletic program. It also will spur rivalries with in-state schools Bradley, Illinois State and Southern Illinois, which are members of the conference.

“The institutions have storied histories, strong rivalries, respected brands, and we didn’t take lightly the geographical integrity at a time when there seems to be so little of it in college sport,” Loyola athletic director Grace Calhoun said.

The move certainly will challenge Loyola’s men’s basketball team, which has struggled even in a less competitive Horizon League the last several years.

But the move will allow Loyola to be more competitive in recruiting Chicago-area talent.

“Regionally, it has a high brand name, and it ups our profile,” men’s basketball coach Porter Moser said. “I think whatever conference we were going to, we were going to go after a high-level student-athlete.

“Obviously, we have a certain profile we want to recruit here in terms of the whole student-athlete. But I think the brand in the Missouri Valley is very powerful.”

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