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Horizon League Expansion: who's next?

Posted by Brian Dickmann on January 12, 2015 at 10:10 PM


According to Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters, the Horizon League will be adding a new member this year.

"They are going to do it this year. Definitely one," Waters recently told Cleveland State Hoops' Tom Mieskoski regarding Horizon League expansion.

This comes on the heels of Cleveland State's athletic director John Parry publicly naming four schools as possible for expansion. According to Bob McDonald from More Than A Fan Cleveland, the four schools are Belmont, Northern Kentucky, Murray State, and Lipscomb. It was the first time an administrator from a conference school has publicly named potential expansion candidates.

McDonald writes:

Prior to the start of the Cleveland State-Virginia Commonwealth game, CSU athletic director John Parry discussed potential expansion of the Horizon League with radio play-by-play announcer Al Pawlowski. When talking about this, fans of any Horizon League school cross their and hope that they don’t hear a glut of initials (read: IUPUI or IPFW).

Instead, Parry mentioned four schools as possible entries. The first was one already familiar to some in the Horizon League – Belmont. The Bruins already are a conference member in soccer and have agreed to play conference schools in a number of other sports. The idea of becoming a full-time league member would be considered the next natural step.

The second school, Northern Kentucky, has also been discussed in certain circles as well. At the moment, the Norse are sitting in the way station of Division I, the Atlantic Sun Conference, and is in the third year of their transition from Division II. However, since NKU won’t be a full D1 school until July 2016, the Horizon League may hold off until then. Once they clear that hurdle, the Norse have the facilities and access to the Cincinnati media market the conference has been looking for.

Murray State was also mentioned as a potential addition. The Racers could be looking for a competition upgrade from the Ohio Valley Conference the same as Belmont may be. [Especially with] their omission from the post-season during the 2012-13 season despite 21 wins and making it to the OVC tournament finals.

Of the four teams mentioned by Parry, perhaps the inclusion of Lipscomb was the biggest head-scratcher. The Bisons have not had the type of success that either Belmont or Murray State has, nor have they set the world on fire in the Atlantic Sun. The only explanation would be to find a travel partner from the cross-town Bruins, should they be invited to the Horizon League.

It will be interesting to see who the league will add. The Horizon League wants to get back to an even number for scheduling purposes, and it is yet to be determined if that number will be 10 or 12.

The best possible addition is clearly Belmont, but will they want to take on all the additional travel? Their budget lines up perfectly with currently Horizon League members but would most likely need to increase due to more travel.

That could lead to the conference adding 3 southern-based teams to get to a 12-team league. Belmont could join along with cross town rival Lipscomb to set up travel partners to help all conference members save on travel costs.

Kentucky based Murray State has a solid basketball team in the crappy Ohio Valley Conference.  If they can find a place for their football team, they would be a good addition for basketball, despite their remote location.

Northern Kentucky seems to be more of a matter of "when" they join, rather than "if" they join. They lie withing the current conference footprint and would make a natural travel partner with Wright State. Their athletic director, former Green Bay athletic director Ken Bothof, knows the Horizon League well.

It is refreshing to hear league coaches and administrators talking about expansion as most of the league's fans continue to clamor for adding 1 to 3 more solid basketball programs. The Horizon League has been able to withstand the loss of Butler and remain a top mid-major conference, ranked in the top 12-14 overall of the 32 NCAA division 1 conferences.

A key addition or two would go a long way towards boosting the league's stature.


How much current and potential Horizon League members spend on mens basketball (2013 numbers, via Basketball State)

1. Detroit, $2,507,046

2. Belmont, $2,383,453

3. Cleveland State, $2,189,220

4. Wright State, $2,029,536

5. Valparaiso, $2,001,213

6. Milwaukee, $1,925,114

7. UIC, $1,839,018

8. Lipscomb, $1,786,101

9. Oakland, $1,728,287

10. Murray State, $1,633,967

11. Green Bay, $1,399,814

12. Youngstown State, $1,323,788

13. Northern Kentucky, $1,172,537

How much current and potential Horizon League members spend on overall athletic expenses (2013 numbers, via Basketball State)

1. Detroit, $14,369,971

2. UIC, $13,982,859

3. Youngstown St, $13,632,988*

4. Valparaiso, $13,483,137

5. Oakland, $12,668,104

6. Milwaukee, $12,488,007

7. Lipscomb, $12,008,545

8. Murray State, $11,789,505*

9. Cleveland St, $11,290,814

10. Northern Kentucky, $11,186,947

11. Belmont, $11,061,865

12. Wright State, $10,173,926

13. Green Bay, $7,443,576

*includes scholarship football

Categories: Horizon League expansion

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