It Is Official–Valparaiso Joins the Missouri Valley Conference

What a great opportunity this will present for the small private Northwest Indiana school (2016-2017 student enrollment was around 4,520) that produced ABC News meteorologist/taker of most things involving nature in Ginger Zee.

As I clearly posted in one of my last blogs, this will be a nice fit both in terms of fielding competitive basketball teams and also for fans and alumni traveling to places like Indiana State, Evansville, Bradley, Loyola of Chicago, Southern Illinois, and Illinois State.  Instead of traveling to Green Bay, Detroit, and Milwaukee, their longest in-conference road trips going forward will include stops at Drake, Northern Iowa, and Missouri State.  I expect many of the ESPN channels will feature Valpo on a lot more than in years past.

The Crusaders should blend in very nicely also in Arch Madness during the first weekend every March, as the Missouri Valley determines its’ automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  With every MVC Tournament game being televised (CSN Chicago and Fox Sports Midwest still cover the first two rounds, while CBS Sports Network covers the two semifinals on Saturday and CBS continues their tradition of airing the final game less than 12 hours after most of America switches their clocks out of Standard Time into Daylight Savings Time), I expect coverage of Valparaiso basketball to hit a fever pitch 100 times more than in Bryce Drew’s senior year prior to them shocking the world in reaching their first Sweet 16 berth way back in 1998.

For second year coach Matt Lottich, they will be without Alec Peters and two other graduating seniors–but with a pair of transfers in the names of Joe Burton (by way of Oklahoma State) and Bakari Evelyn (Nebraska), the future indeed looks bright.

The school that left the Missouri Valley in Wichita State will have the AAC grab the final spotlight before the 2018 draw is released

With the Big Ten holding their annual postseason tournament a week early in Madison Square Garden in New York next March, CBS and the American Athletic Conference agreed on Tuesday that the final three games will air on CBS the weekend of March 10 and 11, 2018.

The semifinals will begin at 1 and approximately 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday, then the title game will begin at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday as they get the final honor of playing the final group of games before Selection Sunday.

The Big Ten will return with the final game honor when the tournament returns to the Midwest in 2019.


DePaul to Welcome Old Foes in Kicking Off Wintrust Arena at McCormick Place

The 10,000 seat arena is the Blue Demons’ first relocation since moving to the one-time named Rosemont Horizon (later named Allstate Arena) in 1980

According to the Chicago Tribune this past Thursday (May 18), the DePaul Blue Demons have announced their first set of opponents for Dave Leitao and the men and the nationally ranked women’s squad led by longtime Head Coach Doug Bruno.

The men will welcome old-time foes in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Veteran’s Day, November 11–while the women will host UConn on Friday, December 8 as the Lady Huskies look to be starting their attempt to possibly win 111 straight games in the future.

My best tip for those fans traveling on Lake Shore Drive during that time of year, please pay close attention to the weather forecasts by using either Accuweather,, or with a proper weather radio or smartphone app tuned to the NOAA Weather station for Chicago.

The arena will be housed in a portion of the new section of McCormick Place, which is the exposition hall where the popular longtime event in the Chicago Auto Show takes place each February.

Lake Shore Drive can get extremely nasty in times of horrible weather.  During the last 50 years, each time Chicago has been nailed with blizzard/white-out conditions (January 1967, January 1979, and February 2011 chief among them), the four-lane road adjacent to Lake Michigan would turn into a instant winter blunderland as dozens of cars, trucks, and buses would become stranded with no way to get out.

As we get closer to that time, I might think about providing a small checklist for fans who might be thinking of traveling to downtown Chicago for a game in trying to survive what Ol’ Man Winter would throw in that part of the Midwest.

When Mother Nature greets the Windy City with beautiful weather (watch out when popular meteorologists like Cheryl Scott of ABC7 say, “Cooler by the lake”), there are plenty of activities to do and shops to see, along with sampling from hundreds of awesome places to eat (but be prepared for slightly higher prices due to Illinois’ rather exorbitant 10 percent state sales tax).

For air travelers, you are around an hour outside of O’Hare Airport and a good 45 minute or so ride (depending on traffic and overall road conditions) from Midway.  Train travelers using either Amtrak or locally with Metra definitely have it made in the shade at Union Station which is located a good two miles away on the west side of the Loop.  From there, you could either hop a short CTA bus ride or take a healthy walk east into the heart of true Shopper’s Paradise along State Street and the always bustling Michigan Avenue.  For Uber passengers, good luck trying to get a good deal because those underground parking lots can be a bear–especially during any weekday from around 7 a.m. to well after 6:30 p.m.

How do I know all this?  I used to travel to Chicago a lot starting way back on Black Friday 1979 to my over two years being employed at a place that sold employment law publications over the phone around the turn of the century.

And from what I have read online about the new arena, it promises to be a really cool experience for the fans.  But for DePaul to come close to their last really great era (which was during the Ray Meyer years of 1979 through 1981 when they were often near the top of the national polls), they have to recruit quality talent and not lose on any local players that decide to bolt to other schools either in-state or at other popular out-of-state schools like Louisville, Michigan State, and Duke.

Valparaiso Receives Possible Invite to Missouri Valley Conference

Tuesday’s decision was unanimous among nine remaining schools

According to ESPN, CBS Sports Network, and scores of online sites–the Valparaiso Crusaders received an invitation to join the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC).  As most of you know, popular school Wichita State is heading to the American Athletic Conference on July 1.  No word on a decision by the Northwest Indiana school will be made public.

IMHO, I think this would be an excellent fit across all athletic and academic programs in lining up with the Missouri Valley’s core mission as a whole.  Also, this will be a boon as far as coaches, players, fans, and alumni who travel.  Valpo is about a 2 1/2 hour drive (give or take with Chicago traffic at any given minute, day or night) from Loyola and is only two interstates away from hooking up with the Stevenson Expressway (Interstate 55) to hook on to St. Louis and the always crazy Arch Madness during the first weekend of March.

Since Bryce Drew’s winning game-winning trey in the 1998 First Round to take down Mississippi at the Oklahoma City site, Valparaiso has made a bunch of tournament trips but it has not won an NCAA Tournament game in 20 years.

This will be a story I will be monitoring closely in the coming weeks.

Three coaches ink long-term deals

At Minnesota, Richard Pitino (the son of Hall of Fame Coach Rick Pitino in Louisville) signed a contract extension on May 3 keeping him as coach of the Golden Gophers until 2021-2022.  The next day, Leonard Hamilton of rising Florida State inked a deal to stay in Tallahassee for three more seasons.  Finally, on May 10, Nevada will have Eric Musselman continuing to roam the sidelines in Reno after signing a five-year extension through 2021-22.  The Wolfpack are coming off their first NCAA appearance in a decade after achieving 20 wins during this last regular season.

The Pit gets another makeover, in name only

With the recent proliferation of many arenas getting facelifts across the country from Villanova to Northwestern, the University of New Mexico Lobos announced on May 3 that a ten year deal was struck with Dreamstyle Remodeling, a home-remodeling business that operates in four Western states.

According to the Associated Press, this deal marks the largest philanthropic agreement in their athletic department’s history.  Besides the naming rights to The Pit,  it includes contributions to the University of New Mexico’s Business Management School, Performing Arts Center, and children’s hospital.

With the Many Dozens of Layoffs affecting ESPN, the Media Landscape is Changing

As depressing was the news about the many dozens of anchors, reporters, and behind-the-scenes personnel at ESPN that started on April 29 and continued well into the first week of May, there is no denying about this simple fact in this social media conscious/our attention span being as short as a flea era:

Cord cutters have been speaking out in bunches.  No longer can people afford the exorbitantly high subscriber fees that ESPN doles out just to put their programming on the air.

When the network last bid for rights to televise the NBA and the NFL, the numbers were in the billions of dollars.  Couple that with most people getting their sports information (albeit in soundbites instead of 4 to 5 minute long segments) via their mobile device, the era of true and honest journalism has gone the same way as Zayre, Venture, Circuit City, Blockbuster Video, Borders Bookstore, Linens & Things, and recently of H.H. Gregg–once great places to do business, but are no longer in existence.

With the layoffs of talented SportsCenter anchors Jaymee Sire, Jade McCarthy, Chris Hassel, Jay Crawford, and as of Thursday with Sara Walsh–along with college basketball analysts and beat reporters in Len Elmore, Andy Katz, and Dana O’Neil (in addition to longtime Sports Illustrated beat writer Seth Davis who was let go during the week of May 15)–it begs to ask the question:

Outside of live sports, is ESPN worth watching anymore?

At one time, you could be entertained and get some good laughs along the way (thank you, Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann–before he went on those longer rants about other topics away from sports).  Hockey provided a much needed break from the usual 2 hour college basketball fests.

Going forward, the morning shows continue to feature hosts that most people cannot stand are in their plans.  We know the people by name, and yet, they still dominate in Nielsen’s popular men’s age brackets.

The afternoons will feature 90 minutes of NFL Live, Rachel Nichols no longer earning a summer vacation as her NBA vehicle The Jump will be seen year-round instead of stopping right after the NBA Finals in June until training camp starts up in early October.  Even integrating programs from niche channels like Intentional Talk from MLB Network shows that people are not into getting key stats and scores in plain English.  Jemele Hill and Michael Smith continue their SC6 show during the week, with former anchor Lindsay Czarniak starting in the morning slot previously occupied by Jaymee Sire.

But the biggest change of all will come in January 2018, as longtime ESPN Radio co-host of the popular Mike and Mike Morning Show Mike Greenberg will be moving to his childhood home of New York to anchor the new 3 hour morning show to air 7 to 10 a.m. Eastern time on ESPN (with full replays on ESPN2 to follow immediately thereafter).

And who knows–if ESPNU and/or ESPNEWS start morphing into ESPN4, maybe niche sports like Super 14 Rugby, cricket, Australian Rules football, and one of my other favorite leagues to follow from July to November in the Canadian Football League could air regularly again on television–I think some people might embrace the change instead of just seeing reruns of SportsCenter all day.

Something to chew on during the weekend as we wait to see what will happen with the professional careers of over 100 people who were laid off from what once was, “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.”

After this round of layoffs where scores of people got “the call”, I am afraid ESPN will be heading down the same route that has plagued MTV, HLN, and most of The Weather Channel–channels that have gone away from their original missions and have mostly shown strange banter and lots of junk programming to fill most hours of the day and night.

As the old adage goes, “People get what they deserve.”  And I am so glad I found listening to podcasts and tons of independent rock music as a better use of my time.  Sorry ESPN, but you may soon be losing another longtime cord lover.