Missouri State students and alumni have long been unhappy being stuck in the Missouri Valley Conference. Just look at the extremely active forums of Missouri State’s page on 247Sports.com, where you will find constant dreamers longing for a school of our size to move onward and upward.
Much of this centers around football. MSU basketball, baseball, and so on playing in a smaller, less-renowned D-I conference has never been ideal, but at least we can win conference championships and go on to compete for NCAA national titles. We have the chance to battle at the highest level. With football, we’re FCS, and have no such opportunity. Bears fans want to step up to the FBS.
And the administration is starting to feel the vibe. In August 2021, athletics director Kyle Moats told the Springfield News-Leader, “We’re happy in the Valley” but wanted to have everything in place so that “if we ever got the offer, we’d be ready to go.” Ten years ago, you would have only gotten the first part of that quote.
A move to FBS is no pipe dream. Since 2000, 33 FCS schools have advanced: Massachusetts, Old Dominion, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, and more. Before that were the likes of Boise State, UConn, Boston, and Marshall. Geographically, Missouri State is well-positioned to join the Sun Belt Conference, Conference USA, or the American Athletic Conference (the Mid-American Conference is also a possibility; Bears swimming and diving is already a member). While a Power 5 conference like the Big 12 or SEC won’t happen, at least for another century or two, MSU has good opportunities for advancement now.
But the university and its supporters must take crucial steps to encourage the necessary invite. We need, as Moats pointed out, upgrades to Plaster Stadium. We need to keep improving the fan experience. Supporters must keep donating through the Missouri State Foundation site and MSU’s GiveCampus page. We need to attend games of all sports, no matter how the season is going. The NCAA has attendance requirements for FBS schools, though enforcement does not appear strict these days. More importantly, studies show higher attendance increases the odds of victory. We need to win to be noticed. And if you can’t make a game, stream it on ESPN+, watch it on TV, etc. Show broadcasters you love the content. Do the little things to help enrollment, too. Buy a car decal, wear MSU gear, post on social media. It’s small acts carried out by tens of thousands of people that change the world.
The arguments against ditching The Valley have never outweighed the potential benefits. Bigger conferences can mean bigger costs, yes. Some wouldn’t want to see MSU fail in a bigger conference, or shift to one unfocused on basketball. This is all short-sighted thinking. The SBC, CUSA, or AAC is a gateway to a more excited fanbase, broader national exposure, a higher profile, increased revenue from enrollment and attendance gains and TV contracts, and so on. We’ll have good years and off years, but we already know we can compete at the highest level of any sport if we have the right pieces in place. University advancement is an upward spiral, but you have to start spinning. When MSU sports regularly play Navy, Rice, SMU, or App State, you’ll be glad you did.
This article originally appeared on Yahoo! and the Springfield News-Leader.
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