UIC to join Missouri Valley Conference
The University of Illinois Chicago, currently in its 40th year of NCAA Division I competition, has accepted an invitation to join the Missouri Valley Conference, effective July 1, UIC Chancellor Michael D. Amiridis and Director of Athletics Michael Lipitz jointly announced today.
The UIC Flames will be the MVC’s 12th member institution, entering the conference for the 2022-23 academic year alongside fellow newcomers Belmont University and Murray State University. The league’s existing membership includes three Illinois schools: Bradley University, Illinois State University, and Southern Illinois University Carbondale, as well as Drake University, University of Evansville, Indiana State University, Missouri State University, University of Northern Iowa and Valparaiso University.
“As the University of Illinois Chicago continues to thrive on the local, national and global stage, joining the Missouri Valley Conference is an honor for the Flames,” Amiridis said. “The Valley is a conference that is not only rich in tradition with a storied history of success, but it aligns UIC with other like-minded institutions that share in our vision for the future of higher education and athletics. This is a tremendous step in the evolution of our athletics programs, and one that we are thrilled to embrace moving forward as we provide opportunities for our student-athletes to not only compete, but to succeed at the highest levels.”
Since earning Division I status in 1981, UIC has amassed 75 conference championships and made 47 NCAA postseason appearances. In addition, 20 Flames have achieved All-America status, 82 have earned recognition as Player of the Year, and 55 coaches have been honored as Coach of the Year. Over the last five seasons, UIC men’s soccer, baseball, women’s tennis, softball and volleyball have all won conference titles, and four of the five programs have collected multiple championships and postseason bids. In 2020-21, the Flames were crowned the Horizon League’s Women’s All-Sport champions on the strength of conference titles in tennis and softball, as well as runner-up finishes in swimming and diving and volleyball.
“Today marks the beginning of a new era for UIC and Flames Athletics and the most significant single event in our history since announcing the transition to NCAA Division I 40 years ago,” Lipitz said. “On behalf of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and Flames fans everywhere, we are fired up to join the Missouri Valley Conference and look forward to representing UIC and The Valley with distinction beginning next year.”
While expressing excitement about UIC’s future in The Valley, Lipitz also reflected on the Flames’ proud history in the Horizon League.
“UIC has been a proud member of the Horizon League since 1994. We value the rivalries developed over nearly three decades and will look to continue those relationships when scheduling circumstances allow. We also look forward to competing against our Horizon League peers throughout the remainder of the winter and spring seasons this year.”
UIC’s 300 student-athletes compete at an elite level in the classroom as well. The Flames recorded the best academic year in school history in 2020-21 with a 3.43 overall GPA. All 18 teams and nearly half of the department’s student-athletes earned Dean’s List recognition in spring 2021 by achieving a 3.5+ GPA. UIC also achieved an all-time best 91% Graduation Success Rate last year.
Like its athletics program, UIC is an institution on the rise. Offering 100 bachelor’s degree programs across 16 top-ranked colleges, UIC is Chicago’s largest university and the city’s only public Carnegie Research I institution. With more than 34,000 students and 300,000 living alumni, UIC has recently been ranked a top 25 public university by the Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education. In addition, UIC has been recognized as a top 30 university for ethnic diversity and a top 10 university for social mobility by U.S. News & World Report.
“A great addition for The Valley,” MVC Commissioner Jeff Jackson said. “UIC’s combination of academics, location, facilities, financial commitment to athletic success, and leadership will enhance the brand of the MVC and the experiences of our student-athletes.”
The Missouri Valley Conference, founded in 1907, is a strong national brand with a rich tradition of success. The value of MVC membership is enhanced by robust media rights agreements with ESPN and CBS, as well as its sponsorship and multimedia rights partnership with Learfield.
Historically, Missouri Valley Conference members have won 15 national championships in the sports of men’s basketball, baseball, cross country, and golf, while Southern Illinois also won an FCS football title in 1983. The conference boasts 73 individual national champions, as well as 17 additional non-NCAA collegiate titles. In 2021, multiple schools from The Valley received bids to the NCAA Tournaments in the sports of men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball and softball, making it one of only eight conferences nationwide to do so.
The MVC is headquartered in St. Louis, a city that has hosted The State Farm MVC Men’s Basketball Championship (known as Arch Madness) for more than 30 consecutive years. In its 115th year overall, The Valley sponsors 17 sports: men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field, men’s and women’s golf, women’s tennis, softball and baseball.
The Valley is UIC’s third conference affiliation since becoming a member of NCAA Division I in 1981. Its first conference tie-in came in 1982, when it joined the Association of Mid-Continent Universities. The AMCU-8 rebranded to the Mid-Continent Conference in 1990. In 1994, the Flames exited the Mid-Con for the Midwestern Collegiate Conference. That group reorganized as the Horizon League in 2001.