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Belmont may be the Ohio Valley Conference’s newest members, but could the Bruins be on the way out? A report today from Dan Walken of USA Today says that Belmont is one of two schools that would have “significant support” from the Missouri Valley Conference to join as members, if, and more likely when Creighton leaves to join the new Big East conference.

There is no indication whether the interest would be mutual. Would it make sense for the Bruins to jump ship? Here are a few factors that could come into play, in no particular order.

 

Travel Considerations

Whether or not geographical convenience was a reason for Belmont’s move from the Atlantic Sun to the OVC, (and it likely played a small role) the Bruins would be in the far corner of the conference, both the team furthest to the south and the east. Their nearest conference “rival” would be Evansville, a two-plus hour drive away. To go to Drake, a 10-hour drive, or more likely a flight for the team.

 

Long-term competitiveness

Sure, but Belmont right now in the Valley, and they’re compete. Probably true for the past few years. But how would they make it in the long-term? One indicator is the money spent on the basketball program. Right now, according to BBState, Belmont outspends the rest of the conference when it comes to basketball, spending over $1.8 million in 2011. Second is Murray State at just below $1.6 million. If the Bruins made the jump to the Missouri Valley, their $1.8 million would put them ahead of Evansville and Missouri State, but still less than half of Wichita State’s budget, which would be the largest budget if Creighton left.

It can probably be safely assumed that the Bruins spending would increase if they made the jump, as their athletics revenue surely would. How much is the question. The Bruins athletic revenue last year, $9.4 million dollars, was lower than the entire Missouri Valley but just $300,000 behind Evansville. On the top end is Southern Illinois, more than doubling the Bruins, bringing in more that $20 million. Wichita State, the top non-football school, brought in more than $18 million. Basketball powerhouse Creighton? Just $14.8 million.

How does the Ohio Valley stack up? Murray State brought in $13.5 million in 2011, the most in the OVC. So how much more revenue would the Bruins bring in by swapping? And would it be enough to double their basketball spending to match the top teams in the Valley?

 

Public Relations

There are a few other things that work for and against a move. First, moving conference so soon would be somewhat of a public relations knock on the school. That would fade, and fairly quickly, but it’s probably something in the back of their minds.

Why should public relations be considered? What if a move is made, and for some reason it doesn’t work out, then what? Will the OVC take you back after you burnt the bridge for a bigger conference?

 

The Valley In 10 Years

The MVC hasn’t had member changes since the 90’s, but with their heightened status, could more members be plucked for bigger conferences? With conference realignment seemingly never ending, will the MVC in 10 years still be the same as the Missouri Valley today?

Will it be a conference you still want to be a part of? Will it still be competitive? It sure seems like it will now, but it wasn’t long ago when Conference USA was a up-and-coming conference.

Belmont only has heightened status in the Valley if they win, and if the MVC stays competitive. When’s the last time you saw ESPN talking about Evansville, or Southern Illinois? A passing mention when they were Creighton’s opponent? Just being in the Missouri Valley isn’t enough to raise your profile. You have to win.

And if the Missouri Valley, either through their top members being plucked or through just attrition, became just another mid-major, it might not even matter if Belmont does win.

 

So…will it happen?

A lot of signs currently point to no. Mike Strickland, Belmont’s athletic director, told the Nashville City Paper that his school is “very happy in the OVC,” but that’s what most AD’s say when these kind of stories come out.

When Belmont moved up to Division I, the Bruins wanted to be, and nearly did join the OVC. Now they have. Sure, the MVC is a higher profile conference, but just because an offer is there doesn’t mean you have to jump at it.

The Missouri Valley is clearly looking for another market to expand into. Denver? Really? That’s about as geographically undesirable a selection for the MVC as you can get. But their name is in the mix because of the Denver media market. Belmont’s name is in the mix not just because they’re good, but because of the Nashville media market. It makes complete sense for the Missouri Valley to want both of these schools.

But does it make sense for Belmont? No answers yet, but something tells me this story isn’t going away any time soon.


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  1. TH:
    I think it that if Belmont is offered they will go. As is stated above, athletic department budgets say a lot. Evansville had experienced a lot of success prior to joining the valley but have had trouble once they joined because they do not have the resources some of the other schools have. I will say that Belmont does fit reasonably well into the geographic footprint of the MVC. Carbondale is a short drive up I24 while Evansville, Indy St, Illinois St. and Bradley could be bus trips as well.
  2. Jonathan:
    I don't think they go. I think travel really was a reason they came to the OVC and being the the MVC doesn't make you enough money to pay for ALL sports increased travel. I would have to see the numbers though. Also, there are rumbling from some people that Evansville wants to move out (not sure why) but if they would leave then that is one less close school. Also, if Creighton is gone is the MVC really that much better than the OVC. I am not saying that it isn't better but it will be a lot closer than it is now. If Belmont was located where SEMO, SIUe, or EIU is then I would think it would be more likely.
  3. SEMOfan1:
    Any new word on JSU bolting the OVC for greener football pastures elsewhere? How would Evansville fit the OVC profile?
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Compiling all OVC non-conference games

2016 Football Standings

OVC Overall
Jacksonville State 7-0 10-2
UT Martin 6-2 7-5
Tennessee Tech 5-3 5-6
Tennessee State 4-3 7-4
Eastern Illinois 4-4 6-5
Murray State 4-4 4-7
SEMO 3-5 3-8
Eastern Kentucky 2-6 3-8
Austin Peay 0-8 0-11


2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVC Overall

EAST

Belmont 15-1 23-7
Morehead State 10-6 14-16
Jacksonville State 9-7 20-15
Tennessee State 8-8 17-13
Tennessee Tech 8-8 12-20
Eastern Kentucky 5-11 12-19

WEST

UT Martin 10-6 22-13
SEMO 9-7 15-18
Murray State 8-8 16-17
Austin Peay 7-9 11-19
Eastern Illinois 6-10 14-15
SIUE 1-15 6-24


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