If you’ve seen my name recently, you know I write for Wright State. However, I write for Wright State because I love the Horizon League, and I felt I would be remiss to not draw attention to this glaring issue that has been recently popping up in collegiate athletics in regards to conference realignment.
University of Illinois-Chicago has been a longstanding member of the Horizon League, joining at the same time as Wright State, Green Bay, and a multitude of others after a realignment that saw the creation of the Summit and Horizon leagues as we know it today. This past month, UIC was awarded the opportunity to go to the Missouri Valley Conference for the 2022-2023 season following the departure of Loyola-Chicago, a high-powered mid-major making the jump into the Atlantic 10.
Conference realignment has always been a game of moving chess pieces; whenever one school moves conferences, it allows another school to take their place. The Valley, regardless of my personal reasons for wanting UIC to stay, is a perfect place for UIC to fully grow their program and give them the best chance to compete as their athletics budget, footprint, and facilities are more in line with the schools that the Valley calls their own.
However, we live in a period of time where leagues would rather bitterly follow bylaws that put the athletes in the center of their slap fest. The Horizon League has decided to make good on Bylaw 22.214.171.124 and ban the athletes in the winter and spring teams from competing in conference championships, despite UIC’s repeated requests to not punish athletes through their waiver application and other requests from their chair.
Horizon joins a disreputable company of conferences that have elected to follow through with their threats of violence against collegiate athletes when the school is looking to join a different league, joining the CAA who banned James Madison University and two other universities earlier in the 2010s, and being the third instance of such an event. Horizon’s argument is simple: UIC did not give the league a one year notice.
UIC’s statement about the matter is scathing:
UIC has stated that they were completely transparent with the Horizon about their progress in their realignment efforts with the MVC, but the Horizon, according to their claims, denied the school the ability to present their case and advocate on behalf of their student athletes once the change had been made. UIC’s AD Michael Lipitz stated that their decision to pull UIC from postseason competition is “entirely inconsistent with their values,” and, from an onlookers perspective about the famously touted program of #OneHL, it certainly feels that way as well.
Instead of allowing UIC the ability to smoothly transition to their new home in the MVC, the Horizon has decided to make their life difficult by directly punishing their student athletes in basketball, baseball, and much more. As a fan of the conference, it’s disgusting that the Horizon and all other members of their administration have elected to go down this dark road for one of the members that was the backbone of the conference as we know it today. If there’s any justice for these student athletes that will take the hit for this malice, the Horizon will turn its decision around and allow UIC to compete.