Q&A with commissioner Doug Elgin
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Entering his 29th year as Missouri Valley Conference commissioner, Doug Elgin is the longest serving commissioner in the conference’s 110 years of existence.
Elgin and his staff have lifted the MVC to new heights in college sports, most known for expanding the conference by admitting Missouri State, Northern Iowa and Evansville as new members in 1992.
Elgin talks about the conference’s greatest accomplishments, hardest times, and future goals for the conference and himself.
What did you expect when you first took the job as MVC commissioner?
I certainly didn’t expect to stay in the job for almost 30 years! When I came to St. Louis in 1988, the college athletics world was quite different, and so was the Missouri Valley. At that time, we only sponsored men’s sports. Most of the MVC’s member institutions competed in women’s sports in the Gateway Conference. We had only eight schools in The Valley. We conducted our men’s basketball tournament at campus sites, which just wasn’t the best model for fairness or for growing the event. However, I did understand the great history and tradition of the league, and the success of the league’s teams, and I expected that to continue.
What have been the biggest challenges that the MVC has faced and how has the conference responded to that?
We’ve faced a lot of challenges during my time in The Valley. We’ve had a great senior staff that has been together for more than 25 years, which has made a world of difference in dealing with pressures and challenges. We’ve dealt with membership changes in a very positive and aggressive manner. The departure of Tulsa in 1996 and Creighton in 2013 were both difficult, but over time, the Missouri Valley has been quite resilient. We have never been defined by one institution. That is a tribute to our campus leadership, our coaches and student-athletes.
How has Arch Madness developed into one of the top conference tournaments to watch in College Basketball?
First and foremost, we’ve had really good players over the 26-year history of the event in St. Louis. The branding has always been strong – we have the perfect moniker, and that resonates nationally.
St. Louis has embraced our championship, and the neutral site has provided fairness – no one plays on a home court in this event. Without question, keeping the event in one place and having the tournament in the city where the Conference office and staff are located has been very advantageous. But what has made the event so special has been the intensity of the competition, the talent of the young men who have played in the event, and athe great coaches who have come through our programs.
What further goals do you have for the MVC?
The MVC’s strategic plan is aggressive and it provides a roadmap for the league in the next 5-10 years. We want to see our teams continue to be competitive on a national stage. We have always been able to achieve selective excellence. We are a basketball league — our men’s basketball has always been strong – just look at the recent success of Wichita State and Northern Iowa. And we had two Final Four appearances in women’s basketball in our past. And we have a great tradition in volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer and track and field.
In the current landscape, it is tougher to remain relevant – to continue to compete at the highest levels in all sports, all the time. But our campus leadership has been remarkably supportive. Our presidents and chancellors have championed athletics, and their support is evident in the great facilities we have on our campus, in the high-profile coaches we have been able to keep in our programs. Our television exposure can be favorably compared to any conference outside the Power Five leagues – that is testimony to the investment our campuses made in the league’s television production infrastructure. Within two years, virtually every athletic contest played on our campuses will be televised on a local, regional or national platform. That is a tribute to our athletics administrators and to our staff. Our ADs and SWAs have the toughest jobs in the MVC, and they have been the most impactful force in the MVC.
Since 1993, the MVC has hosted 14 NCAA basketball tournament events in St. Louis, including a Men’s Final Four and two Women’s final Fours. I want to see that continue – that is a tribute to our staff and our volunteer base.
How would you describe your time so far as MVC commissioner?
I’ve loved the challenges that we face – we are one of the few conferences outside the Power Five that have consistently been competitive in multiple sports. It has been such a joy to see our teams have success – our athletics departments and coaching staffs have made all of us proud. As a league, we have kept our heads up and focused on what we have, and what we can do – not on what we don’t have. We always seem to find a way to remain relevant.
For me personally, I have been so blessed to have a great staff. We’ve been a team. The Conference staff has been so professional, so dedicated to making the Missouri Valley better.