One of college basketball’s mid-major darlings of recent years is on the move.
In the latest significant conference realignment play, Loyola Chicago and the Atlantic 10 jointly announced on Tuesday that the Ramblers will join the league as full members in the 2022–23 season. Loyola departs from the Missouri Valley, the league it joined in 2013 from the Horizon League.
At that time, Loyola’s addition to the MVC was mostly about the conference getting into the Chicago marketplace rather than the program’s success on the hardwood. The Ramblers had not been to the men’s NCAA tournament since 1985 and had finished over .500 just five times in that period. But the hiring of Porter Moser in 2011 brought new life to the program, and Moser eventually took Loyola to a Final Four in 2018 and a Sweet 16 in ’21 to establish Loyola as a mid-major power.
That period also saw significant new investments made in the Loyola program. The school unveiled a state-of-the-art practice facility following the Final Four run and have made other key investments in staffing and infrastructure necessary to compete. When Moser left Loyola for Oklahoma this past spring, Loyola reportedly offered Moser a compensation package upward of $2.2 million annually, a number competitive with high-major programs in the region. For instance, based on the most recent available tax forms, Northwestern coach Chris Collins earns approximately $2.8 million in annual compensation while former DePaul coach Dave Leitao earned around $1.4 million.
Those investments, along with solidifying the league’s midwest footprint and of course the recent success in men’s basketball, made Loyola Chicago an attractive realignment target for the non-football-playing Atlantic 10. The league now has a presence in St. Louis, Chicago and Dayton, and adds a program with the upside to contend for at-large bids to the men’s NCAA tournament.
Since Wichita State departed for the American in 2017, the Missouri Valley has become a far more difficult place to earn at-large bids. Moving to the A-10, which has produced at least one at-large selection every year since the last round of realignment, helps Loyola continue to climb the college hoops food chain and could help retain new coach Drew Valentine, the youngest in Division I, in the future.
Loyola's move to depart comes as the MVC itself ponders expansion, with Ohio Valley power Belmont set to join the league in the 2022–23 season. CBS Sports’s Matt Norlander reported Tuesday that UT-Arlington, Murray State and Kansas City are all also being targeted by the Missouri Valley.
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