TERRE HAUTE —
Have you ever driven past a cow pasture during a severe thunderstorm? If it’s really bad, the cows will congregate in a herd to protect themselves from the tumult.
I saw it once on a road trip in the middle of a hellacious hailstorm in deep southern Indiana and it was kind of awe-inspiring. A flash of lightning in the darkness and a crack of thunder on a barely drivable interstate, and to my right, there were about 10 cows on a lonely hillside huddled together to protect one another.
That’s how it’s felt to be in the Missouri Valley Conference since Division I conference realignment madness began in 2009. It seemed that the MVC’s schools had huddled together and avoided the damage that left some conferences — the Western Athletic Conference and the Big East Conference, to name two — in tatters.
In fact, it seemed the MVC would miraculously suffer no damage whatsoever … the MVC was the only major conference not to have a membership change since the mid-1990s.
And until last Friday, it appeared it would stay that way.
But all it took was a big tree to fall — in this case the implosion of the Big East — and it sent the MVC’s cows scattering.
Nothing official has happened in the MVC yet, but speculation began in earnest that the so-called Catholic Seven — the schools that officially announced their intention to split from the Big East on Saturday — are considering MVC lynchpin Creighton for membership in their new loop.
Moreover, speculation continues to swirl around Evansville and a potential departure to the Horizon League. Evansville continually denies it, but the rumored move continues to pop up on a semi-regular basis.
The Catholic Seven situation is not set in stone. It’s not known how many schools it intends to add and where Creighton ranks in their pecking order. It’s not known whether they will keep the Big East Conference name. It’s not known when the conference can legally be started based on Big East by-laws. There’s no existing TV contract and there’s a looming question as to whether the schools that leave get to keep their NCAA men’s basketball tournament units, a lucrative financial consideration.
But the cows are scattering amid the thunder and lightning that buffets the MVC. According to Indiana State Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman and other published reports, the MVC’s presidents were to discuss the matter of Creighton’s potential departure and the MVC’s future on Sunday.
“I pay attention to it. I know there’s a lot of talk. All I can say is that I trust [MVC commissioner] Doug Elgin and his staff. It’s a tremendous basketball league and I think everyone knows it. We’ve been together this far. This is a good home. If something changes, I’m sure Doug Elgin and his staff will handle it,” said ISU men’s basketball coach Greg Lansing after Saturday’s victory at IUPUI.
Where does all of this leave the Sycamores? Frankly, not in an ideal position. ISU has very little leverage to play.
“We have neither pursued another conference nor has another conference pursued us,” said Prettyman in Sunday’s Tribune-Star.
There is the chance that conference angst could be much ado about nothing. There are still scenarios at play that could strengthen the MVC.
If the Catholic Seven only want a 10-team conference, a possibility reported by ESPN on Sunday, it could benefit the MVC as Creighton would likely stay in the MVC and some Midwestern Atlantic 10 Conference schools could be ripe for the picking.
There are also the inevitable legal battles between the Catholic Seven and the remaining Big East teams, which could push the new league’s startup to 2014-15.
Then again, there are scenarios that could send the MVC into diminished relevance. The fear is that there could be a domino effect if Creighton leaves which sends other schools scattering to find new affiliation — a game of musical chairs that could have devastating consequences for the schools left without a chair.
What could be on the table for ISU? Here are some scenarios, a few more realistic than others:
• Maintain the status quo in MVC — This is the most comfortable option and the one that Prettyman said was ISU’s plan at present. The rewards and risks of this were mentioned above.
• Explore a move to the Horizon League — The Horizon League is a Midwestern-based, basketball-only league that has schools with budgets and outlooks that are similar to ISU’s. Without Butler, the league isn’t as strong as the current MVC, but there are still decent programs in it. Travel would be also be comparable to the MVC.
Youngstown State, a MVFC member, plays in the Horizon League, so ISU’s football program would not likely be impacted. If the MVC were to crater, this would be the league that would make the most sense for ISU to land in.
But the truth is that some Horizon schools could be poached by the MVC if it expands membership. So, in effect, if ISU maintains status quo it could end up with some current Horizon schools as partners anyway.
• Explore a move up to FBS football — FBS football would give ISU more conference alignment options (in theory) and would line ISU for better football paydays. Suddenly … the Mid-American Conference or Sun Belt Conference could be options.
If it were that simple to move up, it might have already happened, but ISU isn’t in anything like a financial or facility position to make the move to FBS. There are also Title IX considerations that come with the additional football scholarships required to play FBS football.
Moreover, a FCS school can’t just move up on its own, it must be invited by a FBS conference. Is any current FBS conference in a position where it would invite ISU? Highly doubtful. ISU’s stadium also doesn’t have the capacity to meet the minimum 15,000 FBS attendance requirement, nor anything like the support.
I’m not sure many current MVC/MVFC schools are ready for a move up, despite some schools (Illinois State, Northern Iowa) that have talked about it or allegedly explored it.
• Explore a move to the Ohio Valley Conference — Could ISU say the heck with it and put all of its eggs — football included — in the OVC’s basket? It’s been bandied about by some in the past, including a few ISU coaches from time to time.
For the love of all that is holy, I hope ISU to the OVC never happens.
My vehement opposition to the OVC aside, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for ISU if things get hairy in the MVC and options dry up elsewhere.
I’m dead set against OVC membership because I think ISU is too big for it: its facilities far exceed that of most OVC schools, OVC schools are rarely on TV, and ISU’s access to the NCAA Tournament in all sports would be severely curtailed.
It only makes sense from a budgetary standpoint … and even that’s questionable, as the MVC generates more revenue than the OVC. Sure ISU would likely get more Ws, but they’d be relatively meaningless Ws. I’d rather ISU aspire to win at the MVC level, even a diminished MVC, where the wins carry more weight.
The OVC would be a worst-case scenario for ISU. But in this landscape, it behooves one to say never say never.
The point of these scenarios is not to suggest a specific roadmap for ISU, but to suggest vigilance and open-mindedness.
ISU has a plan for athletics it is eager to achieve within its own timeline. But if the collegiate athletics landscape moves faster than ISU’s plan called for — it appears increasingly obvious that it is — the responsibility falls on ISU to be ready and willing to change with the times, not let change come to ISU whether it likes it or not.
ISU also needs to look out for its interests ahead of that of its conference. I can assure you that while the majority of the MVC schools are happy with their conference affiliation, as ISU is, they won’t think twice to make a move that suits their interests and leaves the stragglers behind.
ISU has to think the same way. It has to have its head on a swivel and be proactive, not reactive.
When those cows scatter in a field, most of the time, the majority make it through the storm. Vigilance and willingness to act will prevent ISU from being one of the unfortunates that doesn’t make it.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or email@example.com. Please follow him on Twitter @TribStarTodd
TERRE HAUTE —
Have you ever driven past a cow pasture during a severe thunderstorm? If it’s really bad, the cows will congregate in a herd to protect themselves from the tumult.
- Indiana State University
Sycamores bow out of MVC Tournament
Indiana State’s baseball was out of pitching, and after a loss to Wichita State on Thursday, the Sycamores were out of second-chances too at the Missouri Valley Conference baseball tournament. What the Sycamores weren’t out of was heart, guts and clutch performances from some unlikely sources. But in the end, Friday’s elimination game rematch against the Shockers was a sampling of ISU’s season overall — the Sycamores were out of luck.
Four Indiana State athletes advance to NCAA outdoor track and field championships
Three Indiana State seniors and a freshman have punched their tickets to the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in two weeks at Eugene, Ore., with their Friday efforts in the 2013 NCAA East Preliminary at Aggie Stadium on the campus of North Carolina A&T.
ISU baseball hoping Manaea can get its MVC Tournament moving in right direction
Indiana State’s baseball team has been waiting all season for its stars to align.
But this is the 2013 Sycamores, after all, and after a season in which seemingly little has gone right, it appears its stars will remain crossed at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
ISU sending largest group yet to postseason
On the heels of their thrilling double victory at the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships both the Indiana State men and women moved up in the national rankings which were released Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
ISU's athletic treasure trove
Think of every championship that Indiana State has won in each of its sports, past and present. Think of every tournament — postseason or regular season — which the Sycamores have claimed as their own.
Ort sets ISU RBI record in 16-7 win
Robby Ort celebrated his Indiana State baseball Senior Day on Saturday by becoming the Sycamores’ all-time leader in RBIs as ISU ended its regular season with a 16-7 win over Bradley at Bob Warn Field.
Bradley ends 16-game MVC losing streak against ISU
Momentum was the only thing riding on Indiana State’s baseball game against Bradley on Friday. With a five-game winning streak going, ISU wanted to keep the good vibes going into next week’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
ISU couldn’t do it.
Indiana State to host 2014 MVC baseball tourney
Build it… and they will come. The Missouri Valley Conference and Indiana State University made that famous line from the movie “Fields Of Dreams” reality Thursday.
Behind 16 hits and Manaea's pitching, ISU beats Bradley
Indiana State’s baseball team rode a wild ride of emotion on Thursday.
First came the public announcement that Bob Warn Field would host the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Later, Sean Manaea’s availability to pitch ISU’s series opener against Bradley was in doubt.
TODD GOLDEN: Don't give up on ISU baseball just yet
If you had to pick one word that would describe the 2013 Indiana State baseball season, it would have to be frustration.
ISU baseball team builds on success with 14-2 rout
Indiana State’s baseball victory over Alcorn State on Friday would take on more meaning Saturday if the Sycamores could build momentum and pick up on the good work they did in Friday’s ninth-inning rally.
The Sycamores were aggressive from the opening inning at the plate and starting pitcher Devin Moore gave them eight valuable and effective innings on the mound as ISU defeated Alcorn State 14-2 at Bob Warn Field.
“It was a really good experience for everybody. It felt great to finally come out here and put some things together. It’s also really nice when your offense puts a lot of runs on the board,” Moore said.
Moore’s eight innings of work were as valuable as gold to an ISU team that is short on quality arms due to injury and ineffectiveness. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning and one of the two runs he conceded was unearned.
ISU earns badly-needed win
Alcorn State’s baseball team might be ranked in the bottom 10 in RPI and Indiana State might have never lost to a Southwestern Athletic Conference team. So it wouldn’t appear that a quality win was in the offing when Alcorn State visited Bob Warn Field on Friday.
ISU’s Mascari and Hope win MVC track & field titles
Indiana State produced two champions during the opening day of action in the Missouri Valley Conference track and field championships Friday at Drake. Freshman John Mascari, a Terre Haute native, won the men’s 10,000-meter race and Nicole Hope won the women’s pole vault for the second time in three seasons.
ISU pole vault tradition continues with help from its author
Pole vault is track and field for the adrenaline junkie, Indiana State senior Nicole Hope proclaimed during a recent practice at Marks Field.
To catapult oneself about 14 feet into the air with a large $500 fiberglass pole on a daily basis is a risky endeavor.
“We have to be fearless. You can’t be afraid at all,” said Hope, who has also catapulted herself into the NCAA’s elite in the event, ranking 15th in the NCAA with her leap of 13-feet, 9 1/4.
Lansing looking for more home games for next fall
Indiana State’s men’s basketball team is looking for a few good games.
Home games that is.
The Sycamores have filled in most of the blanks in their nonconference schedule, but as ever, ISU coach Greg Lansing would like to visit the friendly confines of Hulman Center a bit more often.
ISU baseball gets back into rhythm with victory
Baseball is a rhythm game. With contests every day or five times a week in the case of many college programs, you have the chance to build on success or wallow in a slump.
Mother Nature took that rhythm away from Indiana State’s team last week. After a 7-1 loss to Indiana on April 24, ISU was supposed to play a three-game series at Tennessee-Martin, but it was wiped out by rain.
So the rhythm was disturbed, but perhaps that wasn’t a bad thing.
ISU was in a five-game losing streak before its unintended vacation and the Sycamores made a move in the right direction Wednesday with a 7-0 win over DePauw at Bob Warn Field.
“It was a disappointing weekend. We went all the way down to Tennessee and didn’t get to play. We sat around in the hotel room. We came here and it was still raining. It was nice to get out and see some live pitching,” ISU center fielder Landon Curry said.
Metro roundup: ISU hands out spring awards
The Indiana State University athletic community, along with family, friends and fans, paused Tuesday night to honor the spring sports teams at the Terre Haute Savings Bank Spring Sports Banquet.
Most of the ISU teams are still in competition with the baseball team having 13 games left of its regular-season schedule before beginning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament May 21, the softball team with just three games left of the docket this coming weekend against Southern Illinois and the track and field program with just one more meet before beginning its postseason events.
The ISU women’s golf team is the team that has ended at this time, with the group recording a sixth-place finish at the MVC championships one week ago.
Indiana State loses 2 in MVC softball
Indiana State aspired to upset Illinois State to get at least a doubleheader split in Missouri Valley Conference softball Thursday at Price Field as the Sycamores opened an eight-game season-ending homestand.
Paige Schreiner hit a two-run blast over the left-field fence in the fifth inning and junior Shelby Wilson delivered a sizzling RBI triple down the right-field line in the sixth as ISU ended the day playing well against the league’s highest-scoring offense.
The result was still a 5-3 loss to the Redbirds (26-18, 11-6 Missouri Valley Conference) as freshman Halle Humphrey gave up four runs in the first two innings. Humphrey, called upon to pitch the opener as well — she’s the only full-time pitcher remaining on the team — gave up six runs and eight hits as the Sycamores dropped a 6-1 game to start the day.
ISU, MVFC brace for change at FCS football level
It seemed so far-fetched.
Internet rumors circulated that Indiana State had been approached by the Sun Belt Conference to bring the Sycamores’ football team into the Sun Belt’s fold.
The Sun Belt is part of the Football Bowl Subdivision. Bowl football. Big boy football … and all it entails.
ISU football in good spirits after healthy Spring Game
Was Saturday afternoon’s weather an omen for Indiana State football as the Sycamores wrapped up spring practice with the annual Blue-White Game at Memorial Stadium? After several practices conducted in less-than-perfect conditions, they’d like to think so.
Loyola ready to take big step
Loyola University and the Missouri Valley Conference took their first steps together Friday and the MVC is hoping the Ramblers don’t have to take too many baby steps before they become a competitive part of the conference.
Sanford wraps up first spring with ISU
The final day of Indiana State football’s first Mike Sanford experience is upon the Sycamores.
Lansing excited about Etherington's signing with Sycamores
The spring signing period for men’s basketball is usually a time to use available scholarships to load up on junior college additions and transfers.
To find a diamond-in-the-rough at the high school level who can give you four years? That’s harder to come by.
Creighton sweep puts ISU in thick of things
In a difficult early-season Missouri Valley Conference schedule, Indiana State took its lumps. Unenviable back-to-back trips to contenders Missouri State and Wichita State had ISU reeling with five straight MVC losses eight days ago.
Second City in the Valley: Loyola joins the MVC
For the first time in its history, the Missouri Valley Conference will have a home in the Second City.
The Chicago Tribune confirmed Saturday via a Loyola University source that the Ramblers will replace Creighton as the MVC’s 10th team. Loyola — a member of the Horizon League — will join the MVC effective July 1.
Indiana State Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman — who was part of the MVC search committee that scouted potential replacements for Creighton — confirmed Sunday that the Ramblers were in the MVC loop.
Sycamore baseball holds off Creighton rally
By his own estimation, Indiana State baseball coach Rick Heller has been involved in close to 2,000 baseball games. If anyone has seen it all on the field, he’d be as good a candidate as any.
Devin Moore pitches gem in 6-1 victory over Creighton
A hip injury suffered by Indiana State ace starting pitcher Sean Manaea shuffled the Sycamores’ starting rotation for the second weekend running as it opened a Missouri Valley Conference home series against Creighton on Friday.
Sanford gets 2nd look at Sycamores
In the immediate aftermath of a practice, game, or in Friday’s case for Indiana State, a scrimmage, most football coaches defer to the film to paint a true picture of what was and wasn’t done. ISU coach Mike Sanford is no different. With the flurry of activity on both sides of the ball, it’s hard to get a true evaluation of anything watching it live.
ISU center FN Lutz glad to be back in the middle of things
For someone who missed an entire season due to a knee injury, Indiana State center FN Lutz has certainly kept himself visible since then.
METRO ROUNDUP: ISU's Brandon Pounds the top collegian in Sea Ray relays
Indiana State senior Brandon Pounds was the top collegian in the men’s hammer throw and fellow senior Felisha Johnson opened up the Sycamores’ three-day competition at the University of Tennessee’s Sea Ray relays with a second-place finish in the women’s hammer throw.
- More Indiana State University Headlines
- Sycamores bow out of MVC Tournament