What is life, really, without some conference realignment madness?
Boring, that’s what.
And so the wheels began a’turnin’ Wednesday once again when Tony Paul of DetroitNews.com began tweeting about Horizon League expansion.
BREAKING: Horizon League has extended a membership offer to a new institution. I don't know who yet. Decision coming in next two weeks.— Tony Paul (@TonyPaul1984) June 21, 2017
You can rule out Robert Morris for the Horizon League at this point. it does not have baseball, and the new member has baseball.— Tony Paul (@TonyPaul1984) June 21, 2017
New Horizon League member likely is one of these schools: IPFW, Indy, Omaha, Belmont, Murray State, SIU-Edwardsville ... or Grand Canyon.— Tony Paul (@TonyPaul1984) June 21, 2017
You can read more of Paul’s work here. He also said this morning that he does not believe Grand Canyon is the school in question, and we tend to agree. But that’s still all speculation at this point. Here’s a summary of Paul’s reporting, our reporting, and what we think it all means:
1. The initial reports from Tony Paul
The Horizon League wants to fill Valparaiso’s spot after the Crusaders left earlier in the offseason for the Missouri Valley. Paul speculated it was either Fort Wayne, IUPUI, Omaha, Belmont, Murray State, SIU Edwardsville, or Grand Canyon. He also says the new school would need to have baseball, which would rule out Robert Morris (which was a rumored contender a while back) and IUPUI.
2. We are told the new Horizon League team, if there is one, is not from the Ohio Valley.
SIU Edwardsville has NOT received a Horizon invite and an OVC source says it is unaware of any departure, our own @FatherHarry1 reports— Mid-Major Madness (@mid_madness) June 21, 2017
Multiple sources have told us that SIU Edwardsville has not received an invitation from the Horizon League and that the OVC has not been informed of any departures. This, or course, could be completely meaningless, as league officials are notoriously secretive when it comes to realignment. People who you think may be in the know often are not, and vice versa.
3. At minimum, Grand Canyon has spoken to the Horizon League.
Sources at Grand Canyon tell us that there have at least been conversations between the university and the Horizon League, but would not say if there was any formal invitation extended. So this could mean just about anything. The most likely scenario: Grand Canyon, as well as a bunch of other schools, was vetted for potential membership. We are trying to find it went any further than that, but cannot report anything else at this time.
If the Horizon League only expands by one school, and all indications are that’s the case right now, it would seem to weaken Grand Canyon’s case for membership as it is a geographic outlier. Current schools don’t exactly have infinite budgets and travel for non-revenue sports could become difficult without a travel partner located near Grand Canyon. We feel it’s more likely that Grand Canyon and someone else gets an invite somewhere down the line. Just not yet.
4. Don’t count out Fort Wayne.
In fact, if I had to bet on who this mystery school is, it’d be the Mastodons. It’s a school within the league footprint and it has a baseball program, as the Horizon tries to retain its automatic bid to that tournament. If we’re discounting OVC schools, that really leaves Fort Wayne and Grand Canyon, and Fort Wayne seems to be the simpler solution. Multiple officials at Fort Wayne have not responded to requests for comment.
5. Keep in mind that in conference realignment, no one actually knows anything.
Just forget everything we said. Yes, we trust our sources. Yes, our reporters know what they are doing. But think about all the insane rumors that floated around last year as the Big 12 contemplated expansion. I spoke with someone last summer who has dealt with realignment consistently throughout his career and the one thing he told me is: “you’ll never know anything until it’s already done.”
But we’ll keep trying. So stay tuned.