Saturday, June 7, 2008

History Revisted: the Gateway renamed Missouri Valley Football Conference

The Missouri Valley Conference has a storied history as a college football conference in the past. But, that was well over 30 years ago.

Since 1976, the Valley, the Missouri Valley Conference, has grown into an excellent mid-major sports conference in all-sports, with the exception there being no football. The Gateway Football Conference name has been used since 1992 as a football only conference for the Division I-AA schools (today's FCS Division). It's name changed in 1992, but the Gateway has been around since the fall of 1985. Like Missouri Valley Conference, in other Division I sports, the Gateway has become one of the better football conferences in the FCS Division.

Beginning this fall, you will see the word "Missouri Valley" associated with College Football again . It will not be The Valley, as we once knew it, but the Gateway Football Conference is changing it's name to the Missouri Valley Football Conference this fall. The 10-member Missouri Valley Conference has approved the use of the "Missouri Valley" name for the nine-members of the Gateway Football Conference. The Gateway will be the Missouri Valley Football Conference in FCS Football this fall.

Both conferences will remain separate entities per the story out of St. Louis. St. Louis, Missouri will remain home for both conferences, with separate administrations.

Of the current Missouri Valley Conference members, five of the ten members play football in the Gateway: Northern Iowa, Illinois State, Missouri State, Indiana State and Southern Illinois. The other four schools that will make up the Missouri Valley Football Conference are Western Illinois, Youngstown State, North Dakota State and South Dakota State. The two Dakota schools are new the the conference this fall.

The Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) had a rich tradition in football from 1907 to 1985. The charter members of the conference, known then as Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MVIAA) in 1907, were Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Washington U and Iowa. Iowa was a joint member, since they were also members of the older Western Conference, now the Big Ten.

In 1907, Iowa and Nebraska won the co-championship in the first season of MVC football. Over the years, programs would play in the Missouri Valley Conference, and then move on to other conferences. Six teams moved to make up what would later become the Big Eight Conference.

  • Iowa didn't remain in both conferences for long, two years, departing after the 1908 season...
  • But, Drake and Iowa State joined in 1908 making it six full members for the MVC.
  • Iowa played MVC teams in 1909 and 1910 though.
  • The Conference grew from 6 teams to 9 over the next 15 years: Kansas State (1913), Grinnell (1919), Oklahoma (1920) and Oklahoma A&M (1925)…
  • Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma vacated to form the Big 6 for 1928 season or the MVC split led it continuing as the Big 6, depending how you want to look at it...
  • The remaining MVC members from the 1928 split were Washington U, Drake, Grinnell and Oklahoma A&M and the Missouri Valley Conference moved on with others joining and leaving over the years... starting with Creighton joining for the 1928 season.
  • As the 5 members of Missouri Valley and Big 6 go there separate ways... October 29, 2009
  • Butler joins in 1932, but leaves after the 1933 season without winning a game. 5+6+5
  • Tulsa and Washburn make the MVC a 7 team conference when they both join in 1935.
  • St. Louis U expands the MVC to 8 teams in 1937.
  • The MVC drops to 7 teams in 1939 with Grinnell's departure. Then 6, after the 1940 season, with Washburn's departure.
  • The War years... Creighton and Washington U eliminated football due to the war after the 1942 season. After the War, Washington U later brought football back as a non-scholarship sport. Creighton (CU) eliminated the sport. (CBS Sports put the spotlight on Creighton during their 1983 undefeated college football season on one of there Saturday football shows).

Tulsa joined the Missouri Valley Conference in 1935 and remained until the conference closed the book on football in 1985. Tulsa from 1935 to 1985 won more conference games (141) and won 25 shared or outright Valley titles, more than any other team. Tulsa became the first Division I team in NCAA history to go to five straight New Year's Day bowl games (1942-1946).

  • Coming out of WWII, the MVC is made up of Drake, Oklahoma A&M, Tulsa, St. Louis U and in 1945, Wichita, today's Wichita State, is added to the football mix.
  • As St. Louis U drops football after 1949 season, Bradley and Detroit arrive in 1949, so entering the 1950s... it's a 6 member conference with Drake, Oklahoma A&M, Tulsa, Wichita, Bradley and Detroit, but that will soon change...
  • Houston arrives in 1951, but both Bradley (they will drop football after 1970) and Drake departs to become an Independent leaving only 5 teams...
  • 1953 - The Beginning of the Modern Era of College Football as per the book: "50 Years of College Football" by Bob Boyles & Paul Guido...
  • In 1953, the Missouri Valley is made up 5 teams: co-champs Oklahoma A&M and Detroit, plus Wichita, Houston and Tulsa.
  • After 1956 season, Detroit becomes an Independent and Oklahoma A&M changed it's name to Oklahoma State and become the 8th team in the Big 7, where they became eligible for the Big 8 title in 1960.
  • In 1957, Houston wins 2nd title in a row over North Texas State, Tulsa, Cincinnati, Wichita and Drake. Cincinnati and Drake were previously Independents.
  • In 1958, North Texas State wins title, while Drake is ineligible for the title, so they leave the MVC after the season to become an Independent through the 1970 season.
  • In 1959, Houston shares it's last title with New Mexico State... with Tulsa, Wichita and Cincinnati rounding out the 5 team MVC race. Houston becomes Independent for 1960.
  • In 1960 and 1961, Wichita sweeps the other 3 teams to win back to back MVC titles.
  • In 1962, Tulsa sweeps the other 3 teams and wins the MVC.
  • In 1963, former Independent Louisville joins the MVC as the 5th member... Cincinnati and Wichita split the title in a 5 team race.
  • In 1964, Cincinnati wins the MVC, but Tulsa finishes with votes in the Final AP Top 10 Poll is invited to Bluebonnet Bowl. Tulsa beats SEC's Mississippi 14-7 on Dec. 19th. Former MVC member, Detroit gave up football after 3-7 mark as Independent.
  • In 1965, The Year of Freedom of Substitution... the end of single platoon football. Tulsa sweeps MVC to win back to back title, again finishes with votes in the Final AP Top 10 Poll. Invited again to Bluebonnet Bowl, but SEC's Tennessee beats Tulsa 27-6 in "driving" rain.
  • In 1966, New Mexico State and Tulsa both share MVC title.
  • In 1968, Memphis State joins the MVC as 6th member.
  • To begin the 1970's, the MVC moved back to 5 teams, with the loss of Cincinnati to became an Independent. Louisville swept their first MVC title.
  • In 1970, former charter member Iowa was having major off the field struggles... leading to the firing of head coach Ray Nagel and the resignation of athletic director Forest Evashevski, once the highly popular coach, who lead Iowa to two Rose Bowl wins in 1957 and 1959. Nagel was reinstated as head coach for the 1970 season.
  • 1970 was truly tragic... airplane crashes taking lives of players, coaches and those associated with the Wichita State and Marshall football programs.

The Missouri Valley Conference began to move away from being a football conference back in early to mid-1970's. Memphis State leaving after 1972, then both Louisville and North Texas State left after the 1974 season. All three teams today compete at the FBS level, but left in the 1970s to become Independents. The MVC did get some new members, Drake returned in 1971, West Texas State joined in 1971, New Mexico State joined 1972, and both Indiana State and Southern Illinois joined in 1977.

  • In 1971, Memphis State won the 7 member MVC title going 4-1, just ahead of Louisville, Tulsa and North Texas State, who finished all 3-2. Drake, West Texas State and Wichita State all finish below .500 in the Big Ten.
  • In 1972, a three-way tie at 4-1 awarded Louisville, Drake and West Texas State the MVC title. Memphis State and Tulsa finished 3-2, followed by Wichita State, New Mexico State and North Texas State, all below .500.
  • In 1973, Tulsa and North Texas State share the 7 member MVC title with a 5-1 mark.
  • In 1974, Tulsa sweeps the rest of the conference to win another title.
  • In 1975, Tulsa sweeps the newly 5 member MVC.
  • In 1976, Tulsa and New Mexico State tie for first place, in what was the conference's last real mention with the other Division I conferences... Tulsa was invited to the inaugural Independence Bowl, losing to McNeese State.

By 1976, the focus of the MVC was changing. The Valley was becoming the new reference for the MVC. The Valley offered football for only 10 more seasons. Illinois State was the final member to join in 1981. After the 1982 season, New Mexico State was last of today's former FBS members to have played and leave the MVC over the years. After the 1983 season, Drake finally called it quits again for MVC football, becoming an Independent. Today, Drake competes as a non-scholarship program, in the Pioneer Football League, a FCS conference, that includes brief and former MVC member, Butler.

From 1907 to 1985, twenty-nine (29) schools played football in the Missouri Valley Conference. The twenty-two (20) teams who won MVC titles or co-championships over the 78 year history were: Tulsa, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma A&M, Drake, Washington U (MO), Creighton, Detroit, Houston, Wichita State, North Texas State, Cincinnati, Memphis State, Louisville, West Texas State and New Mexico State. Eight (9) schools that fielded teams over the years in The Valley, but never won a title in football were: Indiana State, Southern Illinois, Kansas State, St. Louis, Illinois State, Grinnell, Washburn, Butler and Bradley.

  • In 1985, the Gateway Football Conference was created. Future Missouri Valley Conference members, Northern Iowa and Missouri State were among the charter members of the Gateway. Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Indiana State all left the
  • In 1986, West Texas State moved on... Today, they are Division II, West Texas A&M competing in the Lone State Conference.
  • Tulsa moved on after finishing as the MVC's all-time leader in football... Today, Tulsa is a member of Conference USA, along with former MVC members Memphis and Houston.

The Missouri Valley Conference has a rich history. Again, though in name only, college football will ring again in the "Missouri Valley", with the newly named: Missouri Valley Football Conference. It will be interesting to see if this leads to any expansion or shift in the Missouri Valley Conference for other sports?


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