breaking news

‘Amber, please look at me!’: Siblings dealing with aftermath of car ramming them outside Springfield bar

Horizon Leagues eyes expansion as Valpo departs for Missouri Valley

Commissioner Jon LeCrone said the focus of the Horizon League is not to find one school to replace Valparaiso, which announced Thursday it is leaving for the Missouri Valley Conference, but rather to target multiple candidates to fulfill the league’s mission of expansion.

“These transitions are always interesting in that I always see them as new beginnings, and it really creates some energy within our league,” the Vandalia native said on a conference call with reporters. “I won’t divulge the schools we’ve talked to, but we have had a number of conversations over the last 24 months across a number of geographic regions. We really can’t go much further north, but certainly we have had candidate interest from the east, the south, southeast, southwest and west.”

›› RELATED: WSU baseball loaded with confidence heading into HL tournament

The expansion likely will be incremental rather than a mass influx, with the priority being to bring the league membership back to 10 teams for a more balanced schedule.

LeCrone wouldn’t rule out the possibility of that happening in time for the 2017-18 season, but with the fall sports season less than three months away, chances are remote.

“It’s more than likely we would be nine for this coming year,” LeCrone said. “I think we’d be in position to add at least one school in ‘18-‘19 and maybe more along the way in ‘19-‘20. We’ve studied models all the way up to 14- and 16-team leagues. I think we’re committed to growing larger. How much larger I’m not quite sure.”

›› MORE: Dayton native making jump from Horizon League to Big 10

The ideal scenario, LeCrone said, is to add enough teams to allow the league to move to a divisional alignment.

“That really helps our student-athlete experience because divisional play is really the way you mitigate cross-country travel, particular for the Olympic sports to try to keep them closer to home,” he said, adding that the commitment in men’s basketball will be to try to get as many teams as possible to maintain a double round-robin schedule.

LeCrone made it clear men’s basketball will be the driving force, but not the only one, when it comes to inviting new members.

Follow Jay Morrison on Twitter

“All expansion activities are really focused on men’s basketball improvement,” he said. “So we’re thinking about emerging brands, we’re thinking about existing good basketball brands and you have to think about the timing as well. It’s a two-part decision-making process with interest on our part and interest on the candidate’s part.”

LeCrone said a healthy budget also will be an important criteria because the league wants to attract athletic programs that are competitive across all sports the way the Horizon’s two newest additions, Oakland and Northern Kentucky, have been.

Due to the likelihood of the HL being a nine-team league in 2017-18, athletic directors will evaluate a couple of different bracket options for the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in March. LeCrone said the league hopes to announce the bracket by the end of June.

›› RELATED: HL postseason awards go to 5 WSU baseball players

All of the regular-season schedules also will have to be re-done, but LeCrone said those are minor inconveniences and that the overall outlook is one of promise as the league continues on a path toward expansion.

“We’re really excited about our overall approach to membership,” LeCrone said. “This has really been a work in progress for two years. We have a comprehensive candidate list, and we have a high degree of interest. It’s really a new beginning for us.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

NCAA can’t ‘fix’ college basketball without major help from the NBA
NCAA can’t ‘fix’ college basketball without major help from the NBA

The NCAA’s Independent Commission on College Basketball got more right than wrong in its report issued Wednesday.  While making some worthwhile suggestions for fixing some issues faced at the college level, the group chaired by Condoleezza Rice also exposed just how culpable the NBA is in placing elite basketball prospects in limbo...
ESPN picks former Texas DT Poona Ford to ‘make some team very happy’ as draft sleeper
ESPN picks former Texas DT Poona Ford to ‘make some team very happy’ as draft sleeper

The Texas Longhorns defensive took a much-needed step forward in 2017, and a large part of that success can be credited to former senior defensive tackle Poona Ford.   However, although Ford impact’s in the trenches was more than noticeable throughout the 2017 slate, the 6-foot, 305-pound lineman was largely...
Path to 2018 NFL Draft: Penn State RB Saquon Barkley
Path to 2018 NFL Draft: Penn State RB Saquon Barkley

Former Penn State running back Saquon Barkley will complete his transition to professional football Thursday night at the 2018 NFL Draft. He spent three seasons carving up opponents in a Nittany Lions uniform and now is expected to be one of the first players off the board. Barkley, who became a father on Tuesday...
Senior Bowl executive details guideline to Nick Saban’s success at producing NFL talent
Senior Bowl executive details guideline to Nick Saban’s success at producing NFL talent

Nick Saban’s tenure at Alabama has produced more NFL talent than any other active college football coach. The Crimson Tide currently have 44 players in the league and are projected to have a school-record 11 draft picks selected during the 2018 NFL Draft this week, according to Sporting News‘ Alex Marvez. Reese&rsquo...
WATCH: SEC Country Live, April 25
WATCH: SEC Country Live, April 25

SEC football news never stops. So join us for SEC Country Live every Monday-Thursday at 3 p.m. ET ! Host Brandon Adams and former Alabama All-American Mike Johnson break down everything you need to know in the SEC football world with news, analysis and so much more. Join the conversation...
More Stories