Change on Horizon after Valpo exit

Valparaiso is out of the Horizon League, finally heading to the Missouri Valley Conference. So, what’s next for the Horizon?

Horizon League Commissioner Jonathan B. LeCrone tried to answer those questions during Thursday afternoon’s teleconference.

LeCrone emphasized he wants to improve the league’s money sport.

The remaining nine athletic directors meet next week to discus how the men’s and women’s basketball tournament in Detroit is to be going forward. Deputy commissioner Julie Roe Lach said that format should be revealed this summer.

LeCrone added the league is likely to stay at nine teams for 2017-18.

“More than likely, we would be larger than nine, as many as 12 for the coming years,” he said. “Certainly we would be in a position to add at least one school in ’18-19 and maybe more along the way in ’19-20.”

There is an entrance fee around $1 million, due mostly to the ESPN television contract has with the league. LeCrone said there’s nearly 600 events from all of the league’s sports being broadcast next season.

Who enters in 18-19? Grand Canyon in Phoenix has been rumored, along with Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Truthfully, the best fit for all Horizon League sports is IPFW. Fort Wayne is building a $100 million-plus arena downtown to host the Mastodon teams.

No matter who you bring up, LeCrone won’t divulge who the league is targeting. It is a process that was in motion long before Valparaiso’s exit.

“I’m not going to divulge who we’ve talked to, but have had conversations over the last 24 months across a number of geographic regions,” LeCrone said. “We really can’t go much further north, but we’ve had candidate interest from the east, southeast, southwest and west. I couldn’t divulge who we were talking to, but our current membership plan could contemplate moving out of our current geographic region.”

Two tiers have been mentioned.

“We’ve studied models all the way up to 14 to 16 teams,” LeCrone said. “I think we’re committed to going larger. How much larger I’m not quite sure. Divisional play is the way you mitigate cross country travel over Olympic sports to try to keep them closer to home.

“I think the commitment in men’s basketball is to try to get as many teams to play each other in a double round-robin setup.”

No matter if the Horizon League adds one, two or a handful in the next couple of years, it is focused on improving men’s basketball. Milwaukee made the Sweet 16 almost a decade ago, while Butler was the national runner-up before leaving for the Atlantic-10 and Big East Conferences.

“Outside energy, meaning expansion to reposition our league to have the opportunity to compete successful for the NCAA Tournament,” LeCrone said. “That not only talks about additional teams. It talks about the ability to win first and second games.”

Speaking of games, YSU’s men’s basketball team is in the Sanford Pentagon Showcase Nov. 24-26, playing Northern Colorado, South Dakota and Southern Mississippi.

Ironically, Sioux Falls, South Dakota is where Fairmont State, the team YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun mentored last season, played this year’s NCAA Division II Championship.