Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Midconfans News 5/312006

NCAA rules panel approves football, basketball revisions--The NWI Times
A proposal barring a player from calling a timeout while falling out of bounds or into the backcourt also was approved.

No further action is required for any of the proposals.

Thunderbirds add three to women's hoops team--The Spectrum

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Midconfans News 5/24/2006



BASKETBALL: Southern Utah has signed one more player to a national letter of intent. The Thunderbirds signed Nurudeen Adepoju, a wing from Daytona Beach Community College. Adepoju, who hails from Lagos, Nigeria, is a 6-foot-5, 195-pounder who averaged 6.4 points and 5.6 rebounds last year.

Thunderbirds ink forward from Nigeria
--The Spectrum

ORU may be perfect fit for Eddie Sutton--The Tulsa World

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Midconfans News 5/18/2006

Jet-lagged Valpo jumps to Horizon League--The Chicago Sun-Times

Valparaiso switching to Horizon League--The Indy Star

Valpo will leave Mid-Con after next yearThe Kansas City Star

VU leaves Mid-Con for Horizon League--The Post-Tribune

May 18, 2006

By Mike Hutton / Post-Tribune staff writer

VALPARAISO — The questions about why Valparaiso University competed in the Mid-Continent Conference — a league that spread out nearly 2,000 miles, from Utah to Louisiana — always had one consistent answer.

Valparaiso wasn’t leaving for a conference that was more convenient.

Or to a league populated by some of the member institutions that had left the Mid-Con and Valparaiso years earlier.

That changed Wednesday when VU announced that it would join the Horizon League and play against some of those schools — such as Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Cleveland State and Illinois-Chicago — that had betrayed them when they secretly negotiated a deal to join the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon) in 1994.

The switch starts with the 2007-2008 season.

Finally, the extensive travel and exorbitant cost — both for the academic welfare of the students and financially — outweighed Valpo’s deep roots in the Mid-Con.

This means they can renew natural rivalries against schools such as Butler, UIC, Loyola and UW-Milwaukee.

“It became clear in talking with student-athletes and coaches that loyalty is one thing and the best interest of the student athletes is another,” said VU President Dr. Alan Harre, who helped guide the Mid-Con through some rocky times. “My feelings of loyalty or loss are irrelevant to what happens to our athletes and the programs.”

The Crusaders were part of the original Mid-Con Conference when it was formed in 1982.

They were left to pick up the pieces in 1994 when six teams — Illinois-Chicago, Northern Illinois, Wright State, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Cleveland State — bolted to join the Midwestern Collegiate Conference in a back-room deal that infuriated the leadership at Valparaiso.

The departure of those teams left the conference in shambles.

The Valpo administration was at the forefront of recruiting new schools, like Southern Utah and Central Connecticut State to keep the league floating and then wait two years to get their automatic NCAA bid back.

This was VU’s conference. The Crusaders were the bedrock of the league. They became even more firmly entrenched as the franchise school in 1998 when Bryce Drew hit a buzzer-beating 3-point shot against Ole Miss in the NCAA Tournament.

The answer from the VU administrators was always the same about changing addresses.

They weren’t budging, even though the Horizon League had reportedly been wooing them for years.

Despite the thousands of dollars that it cost to send teams to places such as Tulsa, Okla., Cedar City, Utah, and Shreveport, La., and the countless hours on the road, they were happy as the face of the Mid-Con.

The sudden change of heart has more to do with student welfare and financial burdens for the university.

The conference is on shaky ground with the recent loss of Chicago State, which just left the conference last month. After the 2007 season, the Mid-Con has only seven teams. It needs one more team to earn an automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament.

In a statement, Mid-Con Commissioner Tom Douple, who refused additional comment, “wished Valpo the best in the future.”

Valpo coach Homer Drew said the timing was perfect to make the move.

“You have to be receptive to whatever opportunities that come along,” Drew said. “The timing was superb with Chicago State leaving.”

Horizon Commissioner Jonathan LeCrone said that Valpo was “always a school that was at the top of the list” for new membership.

For the Crusaders, becoming the 10th member of the Horizon means they won’t have to endure any more long plane trips combined with long bus rides. A trip to Cedar City to play Southern Utah was a combined eight hours by plane and bus. The longest trip in the Horizon is a six-hour bus ride to play Youngstown State.

The move also substantially reduces travel expenses.

Athletic Director Mark LaBarbera estimated that it cost between $70,000 and $125,000 to send teams to Southern Utah and Centenary. That’s roughly 3 percent of VU’s operating budget.

LaBarbera said this move was “clearly a step up for the basketball team.”

It also is a boost for the the fan base and home attendance. Valpo gets teams such as Loyola, Butler and UIC at home instead of Southern Utah, UMKC and Centenary.

“Our fans enjoy watching games against those teams,” LaBarbera said.

Contact Mike Hutton at 648-3139 or

VU players, fans, alumni ecstatic about Crusaders’ new home--The Post-Tribune

May 18, 2006

By John Mutka / Post-Tribune senior correspondent

VALPARAISO — Times change.

Former Valparaiso University athletic director Bill Steinbrecher recognizes that, which is why he supports the Lutheran school’s decision to join the Horizon League.

A charter member of the Mid-Continent Conference, VU will officially exit after the 2006-07 school year, ending an association that began in 1982. That will leave Western Illinois as the only remaining charter member of the conference.

Steinbrecher admits to a certain nostalgia for a league he played a strong role in developing.

He served in a leadership capacity for years and his son, Jon, served as conference commissioner during some trying years before leaving for the Ohio Valley Conference.

“Based on student-athlete welfare I certainly support President (Alan) Harre and (athletic director) Mark LaBarbera’s decision,” he said Wednesday at a hastily called news conference.

In the early days of the Mid-Continent Conference, it was primarily a Midwestern league. But that gradually changed with the defection of charter members such as Wisconsin-Green Bay, Cleveland State, Northern Iowa and Southwest Missouri State.

When Eastern Illinois bolted after the 1995-96 season, the conference became more far-flung, its borders shifting from the east coast to west of the Mississippi. With the departure of Chicago State and Valparaiso in the last two months, the Mid-Continent Conference will resume its struggle for survival.

“I think they’ll be fine,” said VU basketball coach Homer Drew, always the diplomat.

Because of the Mid-Con’s present makeup, difficult road trips for basketball imposed unreasonable burdens, both academically and athletically. Soaring travel costs also increased the stress on VU’s athletic budget. A conference game at Southern Utah involved flying to Las Vegas, then switching to a bus. It covered more than 2,000 miles.

“Some pretty crazy road trips,” said forward Dan Oppland, who led the Crusaders in scoring and rebounding. “But, I enjoyed playing in the Mid-Con. It was a pretty competitive league.”

The move comes too late for Oppland, but he likes the midwest flavor and the fact that VU’s longest road trip would not cover more than 600 miles.

“That’s pretty cool,” he said. “I’ll be interested in watching. I hope they do well.”

Reaction to the move was universally positive.

“What’s not to like?” said John Bowker, the veteran P.A. announcer for VU basketball. In 19 years he’s missed only six games. “It’s great for the student-athletes.”

Bowker described the switch to a league with all of its members situated in five Midwest states with contiguous borders as a win-win situation.

“Now all we have to do is start win, win, winning,” he said.

Recently, that’s been difficult. In the last two years, the Crusaders have failed to reach the championship game in the conference tournament. That hadn’t happened before since 1992-94.

Switching leagues came as a surprise to many hands-on VU boosters, including Bowker and Dot Nuechterlein, who has served as official scorer for men and women’s basketball since 1984 except for a two-year hiatus.

“I had not even heard a rumor about it,” said Bowker, who has been VU’s director of information and record systems for 13 years. “Absolutely nothing. I didn’t find out until this (Wednesday) morning.”

Nuechterlein didn’t know until a reporter contacted her.

“There are always rumors floating around,” she said, “but nothing recently.”

Her reaction?


Six of the present nine members of the Horizon League once competed in the Mid-Continent.

Reuniting with Illinois-Chicago, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Cleveland State, Wright State and Youngstown State appeals to her.

“We have a history of good competition with those schools,” she said. “A lot of good rivalries.”

None is more appealing than Butler, which plays Valparaiso in football but hasn’t competed against the Crusaders regularly in basketball since the Heartland Conference broke up.

The more prestigious Horizon League is an upgrade for Valparaiso, which monopolized the Mid-Continent Conference until recently.

The Crusaders can’t expect to dominate a conference with an RPI rating of 15. Conversely, the Mid-Con usually ranked somewhere between 28 and 30 out of 33 Division I conferences.

Just from the standpoint of a regional schedule, Nuechterlein heartily approves of the move.

“I made a couple of those trips,” she said. “People think traveling is glamorous, but it’s a pain. Imagine how difficult it is for players to keep up with their studies when they’re so fatigued.”

“More power to ’em,” said Nuechterlein, who retired two years ago as a professor of sociology and criminology, but still teaches as an adjunct.

Contact John Mutka at

Mark Lazerus column: Big things are now on the Horizon for Valparaiso--The Post-Tribune

May 18, 2006

By Mark Lazerus / Post-Tribune staff writer

VALPARAISO — Driving east toward the Valparaiso campus on Wednesday afternoon, jagged streaks of lightning pierced the gray sky ahead.

Literally, danger was on the horizon.

And certainly danger lies in the Horizon League for the Valparaiso men’s basketball team.

This isn’t the glorified intramural league that the Mid-Continent Conference has devolved into.

It’s pretty darn tough basketball. It’s the big-time, as far as mid-majors are concerned. It’s legit.

And it’s about time.

Valparaiso’s move to the Horizon is, quite simply, tremendous news in every respect for the Crusaders. School administrators spoke at length about how less time on the bus and in the air will mean more time in the classroom for the student-athletes. That’s great, And sure, fans will have easier access to road games. That’s great, too.

But what really matters here is that Valparaiso basketball finally has its chance to be as big as it wants to be. As big as it perceives itself to be. As big as it should be.

Ever since Bryce Drew’s “One Shining Moment,” Valparaiso has been the cuddliest team in the country. Everybody loves those adorable little Crusaders. They define what a Cinderella team should be — small, upstart and surprising.

But in the laughable Mid-Con, VU never had a chance of becoming anything more than that, at least not in the eyes of the general public. Even in their dominant years, the Crusaders never garnered the kind of respect that Wisconsin-Milwaukee or Butler currently enjoy in the Horizon.

Why? It’s simple. The Horizon’s RPI is 15 out of 31 conferences. That’s better than the highly respected Mid-American Conference. The Mid-Con, meanwhile, is rated 28th. That’s worse than the Ivy League. Yes, the Ivy League.

The average Horizon school is rated 166th. Not great, but right in the middle of the enormous NCAA pack. The average Mid-Con school is rated 243rd.

In other words, the Mid-Con stinks. And Valparaiso finally has escaped it. Well, a year from now.

By joining the Horizon — one of the few smaller conferences with the cache to send more than one team to the NCAA Tournament — Valparaiso has broadened its own horizons.

Every conference game the Crusaders play will be televised — that helps recruiting.

Every player will gain more exposure by playing against superior competition — that helps recruiting.

Every team the Crusaders play will be in a five-state span in the Midwest — that helps recruiting, particularly in those five states, which head coach Homer Drew said will dominate his trips.

The time has come for Valparaiso to shed its cute reputation in favor of something more impressive, more respected, more permanent. Even with the struggles of the past couple of seasons, the program had clearly outgrown the Mid-Con.

The Horizon is certainly not the Big Ten. But it’s as big a step up as Valparaiso could have made — and it’s a necessary step. It won’t be easy at first — if Valparaiso couldn’t win the Mid-Con title the past couple of years, the Crusaders certainly won’t be winning the Horizon right away.

But, just when things were getting stale and the spotlight was getting weak, this move should give the program a much-needed jolt. It’ll be noticeable in the next couple of recruiting classes.

Valparaiso can contend in the Horizon — in time. The early suffering, which might not even be that bad, will pay serious dividends in the long run.

It’s not an easy path from national adoration to national respect. But for Valparaiso, getting invited to the Horizon was the first step.

“It’s like dating,” Drew said. “It always feels nice to be wanted by someone.”

The goal is to eventually be truly respected — even feared — by everyone. And that goal is now attainable, even if it is far off on the Horizon.

Contact Mark Lazerus at 648-3140 or

Vujic confirms that he’s leaving Valpo for DePaul--The Post-Tribune

May 18, 2006

By Mike Hutton / Post-Tribune staff writer

VALPARAISO — It’s official.

Valpo assistant Ivan Vujic is leaving to take a job as an assistant at DePaul.

Valpo coach Homer Drew confirmed a story that appeared in the Post-Tribune on Wednesday about Vujic’s departure.

Vujic returned to Valparaiso last summer to finish his undergraduate degree and help coach the Crusaders’ big men.

The 6-10 center played for Drew — and graduated in 2000.

He had spent several years playing and coaching overseas before returning from Croatia, his home, to coach for Drew.

In a statement released by the school, Vujic said: “It was a difficult decision to leave Valpo. I am grateful to Homer Drew and the entire staff for the support they have given me. Coach Drew has always pushed me to achieve my ambitions and I truly believe this is a great opportunity for me.”

Changes on the Horizon--The NWI Times

Horizon, commissioner embrace Valpo--The NWI Times

Horizon League at a glance--The NWI Times

Less travel excites Crusader athletes--The NWI Times

VU to Horizon? It's about time--The NWI Times

Uhegwu, Bonfim leave SUU hoops team--The Spectrum

Valparaiso leaves Mid-Continent Conference to join Horizon

Valparaiso University Accepts Membership Invitation To Join Horizon League--Horizon League

Valparaiso leaving Mid-Con--The Tulsa World -- NOW Free on-line

Women's Basketball Summer Camps Rapidly Approaching--UMKC Kangaroos

Valpo to Join Horizon League in

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Midconfans News 5/17/2006

MEN’S BASKETBALL:Assistant at Valpo headed to DePaul--The Post-Tribune

May 17, 2006

By Mike Hutton / Post-Tribune staff writer

The short tenure of Ivan Vujic as an assistant at Valparaiso University is over.

According to a source in the VU athletic department, Vujic has accepted a position at DePaul to become an assistant under second-year coach Jerry Wainwright.

Vujic, a native of Croatia, replaced Greg Tonagel, who left last summer to take the head job at Indiana Wesleyan.

When reached on the phone in Chicago, Vujic refused comment. Valpo coach Homer Drew was out of town and didn’t return a phone call.

Vujic, a 2000 VU graduate, returned to Valpo to finish up his undergraduate degree. He is going to graduate Saturday. Eventually, the plan was for him to help recruit international players for the Crusaders.

After several years playing basketball overseas, Vujic returned to Croatia to coach before coming to Valpo in August just weeks before the school year started.

Contact Mike Hutton at 648-3139 or

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Midconfans News 5/4/2006

Is there room for IPFW?--The Indy Star

Walters quickly promoted--The Post-Tribune

By Mike Hutton / Post-Tribune staff writer

A little more than a year ago, Rex Walters was making a mad dash from Valparaiso University to Boca Raton, Fla., where he snared a job as an assistant for Matt Doherty at Florida Atlantic University.

The two had forged a relationship when Walters was playing for Kansas and Doherty was an assistant for Roy Williams. Walters, with just two years of experience, was happy to help.

A week ago, Walters was interviewing for the vacant FAU job in the office of president Frank Brogan.

On Friday, in what constitutes a meteoric rise even by college basketball standards, Walters was hired as the head coach of FAU after Doherty left to take the job at SMU.

Walters, who has a four-year contract, said he’s ready for the challenge.

He spent seven years in the NBA. One of the first calls he got after his press conference came from Homer Drew congratulating him.

“I’ve only coached for three years but I’ve been around Chuck Daly, Pat Riley, Larry Brown and Homer Drew for two years,” he said. “I feel like I’m ready for this.”

Walters will have his hands full. Though FAU finished 15-13 in Doherty’s first season, they are about to jump to the Sun Belt Conference from the Atlantic Sun Conference. That league figures to be stiffer competition for him.

Walters said it’s doubtful that he’d schedule a game with VU in the near future because of that — and because of his relationship with Drew.

“It won’t happen soon because you don’t like to play (against) people you care about,” he said.

Walters was just as surprised as everyone else when the opportunity to leave for SMU cropped up for Doherty.

Doherty insisted that he didn’t really want to leave but that Steve Orsini, a Notre Dame graduate, recruited him so tenaciously that he couldn’t say no.

“I didn’t see it coming,” he said. “I was out recruiting, getting ready for next year, when this all popped up.”

Contact Mike Hutton at 648-3139 or

Ladies Basketball Adds Pair to Play in 2006-07--GoCentenary.Com