OVC to add SIU Edwardsville
The Ohio Valley Conference may be on the brink of expansion.
The conference is poised to add Southern Illinois University Edwardsville as a new member, sources told the Southeast Missourian on Friday.
An announcement could come as soon as this week.
OVC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher would not confirm the report, though he did say SIUE has applied for membership, has been visited by OVC representatives and that the matter was under consideration for the board of presidents.
Southeast Missouri State University president Dr. Ken Dobbins said Friday that such an addition would be “important for us as a league and also important for us as a university.”
SIUE is an emerging NCAA Division I institution, currently in the process of making the transition from Division II. The school is located about 25 miles northeast of St. Louis.
SIUE competes in 16 sports, and it has won 17 national championships, most recently one last spring in softball.
The university’s Board of Trustees approved the move in February 2007, and the university will be eligible to compete in NCAA postseason championships beginning with the fall 2012 school year.
Steinbrecher said SIUE contacted the OVC four years ago to seek information and benchmarks on Division I athletics.
“We were a sounding board for various issues they had,” he said.
In the reports on the U.S. Department of Education for the 2006-07 school year, SIUE is listed with an enrollment of 10,960 undergraduates and an athletics budget of $3.36 million. The university does not have a football program.
It does have teams in two sports — men’s soccer and wrestling — where it would have to compete as an independent or seek affiliation in another conference.
The OVC earlier this year agreed to consider adding a member that did not play football. The conference is dropping to 10 schools — nine football schools — with Samford, a private school in Birmingham, Ala., leaving for the Southern Conference at the end of this month.
Steinbrecher said the process of considering schools for membership includes more than a dozen criteria, including budgets, student-athlete welfare and support programs, compliance and facilities.
He would like to see the OVC get to as many as 12 schools, which could allow for divisional play in basketball and some other sports.
“We are in a growth mode,” Steinbrecher said, “and I’m hopeful we can find that one or two to get to divisional play. I’ve not been a strong proponent of looking at emerging Division I institutions, but there are exceptions.”
Steinbrecher said there have been reports the OVC has been in contact with current Division I schools, “but we have not extended an offer to anyone,” he said.
Schools in Tennessee, where the OVC is based, may make sense for the league, but the St. Louis market also represents an area of interest for the OVC.
“We have a healthy chunk of OVC alums in the St. Louis marketplace, somewhere in the 30,000 range,” Steinbrecher said, “and a significant portion is from Southeast Missouri.”