This kind of went under the radar today on the St. Louis sports landscape but SIU-Edwardsville made it official that they will be joining the Ohio Valley Conference at the end of the month and becoming a full member starting in the 2011-2012 season. To those who are alumni and friends of SIUE it is a big day. But for the St. Louis sports fan this is also a big deal although many don't realize it yet.
Not to take away from some of the less profile sports and their athletes but what it truly means to the average sports fan in St. Louis is that for the 2011-12 season there will be two Division One Men's and Women's basketball teams in the St. Louis metro area. What that means is that it is conceivable that when Selection Sunday comes up on KMOV in 2012 it is possible that the SIU-Edwardsville Cougars could be a 14th seed in the Midwest Region for March Madness.
What the move also does today is give more local athletes a choice to stay close to home to play Division One Sports. The fact is if you weren't good enough to play basketball at the majors (Mizzou, Illinois) or the near majors (SLU, SIUC, Missouri State, rest of the MVC) there weren't really any nearby options that had quality Division One basketball programs. Now there is that option in Edwardsville.
SIU-Edwardsville really did their homework on this selection. To be a new Division One member and to join a quality conference like the OVC is a scenario that they could have only dreamed about. Most schools coming into Division One, like SIUE, have to languish in a mediocre conference or be an independent for awhile before they can move into a "real" conference. SIUE doesn't have to because they got into a good mid-level conference right away.
The one other thing mentioned in the press conference was football. Although I would love to have a Division 1-AA football team in the immediate area I don't think you will probably see it at SIUE anytime soon. The OVC is a good 1-AA conference but it doesn't appear it will happen soon unless there is a bigtime donor who wants to make it happen quickly. I think best case you could see football at SIUE at 2020 but in reality there probably won't be a football program anytime soon.
So here is my first suggestion to the SIUE athletic department. For the opening game set up a match up with SLU at the Scottrade Center and fill the building with the students and alumni and start your basketball program off with a bang. Hopefully SLU wouldn't back away from that and realize it is good for the community.