CEDAR FALLS — Expanded conference schedules, along with a handful of other dynamics within the college basketball landscape, has made Missouri Valley Conference Commissioner Doug Elgin’s job more and more difficult.
So, on the heels of the announcement that the Hy-Vee Classic in Des Moines would be no more for MVC members Drake and Northern Iowa, Elgin was up front about his feelings.
“It made me sick quite honestly,” Elgin said. “I had heard rumors when I was out there this year for the event that it was likely to happen and I think it just speaks poorly to the way in which programs make decisions to end rivalries that make sense.
“I think the losers in this are the citizens of Iowa, the taxpayers, those that like to see the kids who played against one another in high school — in many instances — meet on the floor in Des Moines.”
The Hy-Vee Classic — a doubleheader featuring the state’s big four men’s basketball programs at Wells Fargo Arena every December — replaced home-and-home scheduling for UNI and Drake against Iowa and Iowa State in 2012.
Elgin compared Iowa to many other states across the country that are not currently able to enjoy in-state rivalry games. As Power Five programs have expanded conference schedules and raked in profits from television deals with major networks, mid-major conferences have been left fighting among each other to find the small number of dates that exist now in November and December to strengthen their RPIs by playing quality non-conference opponents.
Elgin revealed that an emphasis is being placed on getting Valley teams into quality multi-team events — such as the Battle 4 Atlantis that UNI played in last season — along with revealing that discussions have and continue to take place with fellow non-Power Five leagues.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“I think that’s important to create home-and-home rivalries and we’re working on that,” Elgin said. “Another big focus for our conference staff and our athletics administrators is trying to get our teams into the more elite multi-team events. I think along with an effort to try to get our better teams, certainly, to play better teams from other peer conferences and that would probably mean the Atlantic 10, Conference USA, the West Coast Conference and the Mountain West. Try to get those teams to begin to play each other more. I think that’s the only way you’re going to raise the profile, strengthen the resumes of teams that are looking to get at-large opportunities in the NCAA Tournament.
“The only way you’re going to make that happen now with Power Five schools playing fewer games out of conference is get the better teams, the top-100 RPI teams together and play a non-conference series.”
As it enters year four of a four-year contract, Elgin explained that due to a scheduling conflict with the Mountain West’s conference tournament in 2019, the MVC-MWC Challenge will not be immediately renewed. However, Elgin described the challenge series between the conferences as a success.
“We’ve got to keep that discussion going,” Elgin said. “Certainly they benefited from the Missouri Valley-Mountain West Challenge.”
Elgin left open the possibility of the series returning in 2020, along with the chance that some MVC and MWC schools could schedule games in 2019 if there are mutual open dates.
Northern Iowa will visit Utah State in this year’s challenge on Nov. 28.