Updated following media conference Tuesday afternoon:
Murray State University's Director of Athletics says the university will focus efforts on making the year ahead with the Ohio Valley Conference "a great one."
Allen Ward spoke with media Tuesday afternoon following the Missouri Valley Conference announcement opting to include Valparaiso over Murray State and other schools in filling a vacancy. Ward said he received notification from the MVC Tuesday morning that they decided to stay at 10 universities and chose the private Indiana university.
Ward says the success of MSU's program was never reliant on this decision. "--And I will say that over and over again. There are some programs that would need conference membership, certain conference membership to be successful, to have an opportunity to be successful, but that's not the case here," Ward said. He credited an engaged fan base at MSU as a factor for success over the years and cited MSU’s four conference wins so far this year.
Ward says a site visit with Missouri Valley Conference officials was very complementary, particularly the basketball arena "It certainly wasn't anything to do with what our program was, it was more of a what direction do they wanted to take at this particular time for their conference."
He says Murray State’s focus now is being a member of the Ohio Valley Conference. He commended the commissioners for handling the matter well. "We are going to focus everything and every effort that we have on making this year in the OVC a great one."
"I feel incredibly positive about our future... We're going to be very proud members of the OVC and I've got a lot of friends and a lot of colleagues and I look forward to working with them again,” He said.
He said it bodes well for Murray State that the Missouri Valley Conference had approached them first. Ward said he monitored the situation with Wichita State’s exit and felt it was an opportunity to get MSU’s name out there as a possible consideration, but said that MVC contacted MSU first and that was a good feeling. “I felt like somebody had recognized what we were doing with our program and were going to take a good, hard look at us.”
As for changing conferences in the future, Ward said that is beyond his decision to make. He said there has been discussions with other conferences over the years but nothing serious enough. He said he didn’t want to speculate on the potential opening in the Horizon League with Valparaiso’s exit.
Another factor involved in changing conferences was the potential cost in an estimated $4 million dollar range (due to travel and other factors). Ward said that cost was in a different context that can’t be applied to the OVC.
He said Valparaiso has a good basketball program and wished them the very best in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Murray State University will not be joining the Missouri Valley Conference. MSU Director of Athletics Allen Ward said in a release Tuesday morning (see below) that he is "in no way disappointed by the news" and has no regrets being involved in the process.
The Missouri Valley Conference Presidents Council met to discuss membership in a meeting Monday night. In a statement published on Twitter, MVC said the council has unanimously voted to extend a membership invitation to Valparaiso University, effective July 1.
Murray State has been considering changing collegiate athletic conferences. This was discussed in a recent Board of Regents meeting and though MVC was never directly mentioned, it has been widely circulated that MSU was under consideration to fill Wichita State University's vacancy.
Murray State will remain in the Ohio Valley Conference where it is a founding member - having been in the league since 1948.
Statement from Director of Athletics Allen Ward regarding conference affiliation:
Today I was notified that Murray State will not be receiving an invitation to join the Missouri Valley Conference. I am in no way disappointed by the news or have any regrets being involved in the process. Our goals and objectives to graduate our student-athletes, win championships, promote this great university, and be a player on the national scene have not changed and were never reliant on the outcome today.
We’re a proud program with a rich history that I’ll compare to anyone. Our passionate fans are fully engaged with our program and provide a solid foundation for our success. We’ve won four conference championships this year alone and there are many more championship banners in our exceptionally bright future.
We’re founding members of a league that we have represented proudly since 1948. We have the highest regard for the many friends, colleagues and rivals we have in the OVC. I want to convey my sincerest gratitude for the manner in which they handled the past few weeks. I’m grateful for their professionalism and friendship.
The upcoming season provides Racer fans with some incredible opportunities to follow their team, impact the success of the conference, and again prove why Murray State is one of the finest mid-major programs in the country. There are so many good things happening here, I couldn’t be more excited about the upcoming year and the future of this program.
This story has been updated.