YSU coaches wait on Valpo, league to finish scheduling

Valparaiso University thus far has been mum on its decision to accept an invitation to join the Missouri Valley Conference, an offer made public last week.

The belief is the Crusaders are headed to the MVC, but nothing is official — leaving the remaining nine members of the Horizon League in limbo as far as scheduling goes, including Youngstown State University.

YSU men’s basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun, who said he was close to solidifying this year’s schedule, has had to put those plans on hold.

The Penguins already have Butler, DePaul and Utah State on the schedule as guaranteed games. YSU receives $85,000 for playing Butler and DePaul and $90,000 for Utah State.

Calhoun is steadfast in not wanting to play a non-Division I team next season, but has to be realistic in the scenario the Penguins could be in if Valparaiso leaves for the MVC.

The situation was a topic of discussion at this year’s men’s basketball meeting in Detroit. Calhoun and the other eight Horizon League coaches from Oakland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Illinois-Chicago, Northern Kentucky, Cleveland State and Wright State, talked about the impending departure of Valparaiso.

Contingency plans are in place. Calhoun said he’s going to confer with YSU Director of Athletics Ron Strollo before making any scheduling changes. If the Horizon League cannot replace Valparaiso, that will leave YSU’s team looking for another guarantee game like Butler, DePaul and Utah State, or another home-and-home game — playing one on the road and the other at the Beeghly Center in consecutive years.

“We’re all in limbo to find stuff,” Calhoun said. “We’re going to struggle to find games if we don’t get a 10th team.

“What I think is going to happen, and I’m completely against it, but just talking to some of the guys in the league, we’re going to be stuck playing non-Division Is. I hate to say it.”

The hope is that after Valparaiso makes its move official, the Horizon League moves quickly to secure a 10th team.

Schools like Robert Morris, Murray State, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), Nebraska-Omaha and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville have been speculated as being a possible replacement. So have Grand Canyon University and New Mexico State.

YSU women’s basketball coach John Barnes is ready for his team’s possible future as well.

He said if the league doesn’t add a team and goes with nine for next season, the Penguins are looking for a home-and-home game like the men, or are seeking to be part of a tournament. Barnes said that’s contingent on fitting the schedule and keeping the level of competition.

“I think the whole schedule is going to be revamped,” Barnes said. “That’s a concern for everyone. Also, filling those two games. Do you try to fill them when we may add a team? It puts everyone in limbo a little bit.”

He, like Calhoun, is hoping the Horizon League can come up with an amicable solution for the 2017-18 season.

Valparaiso, when it accepts, will be a part of the MVC beginning July 1. If a new school enters the Horizon this upcoming season, it would start at the same time.

“Best case scenario is we add a team to the league,” Barnes said. “I know there’s talk of that. I’m not counting that out at this point.”

YSU volleyball coach Mark Hardaway isn’t as concerned about the departure. Detroit does not have volleyball. With the Crusaders exit, that leaves eight teams.

Through last season, the Horizon League volleyball teams went through league play in pods — groups of three schools. Things become simpler with eight teams.

“If they don’t replace Valpo, we go to even numbers,” Hardaway said. “We can have travel partners again. If they add one team, I’m assuming geography will dictate if we have to make changes in our schedule to next year.”

If the Penguins need to, they can go after teams like Duquesne, Pittsburgh, Kent State, West Virginia, Buffalo, Canisius or Niagara to fill Valparaiso’s spots.

They’ve looked into travel plans for this upcoming season, but no money has changed hands. So, it’s still OK with the volleyball team, Hardaway said.

“It’s probably time wasted right now guessing what’s going to happen,” Hardaway said. “That’s why for us it’s more of take a deep breath, see what happens and we’ll have to adapt and adjust.

“We’re not panicking yet.”