Jon LeCrone, commisioner of the Horizon League, responded to a recent op-ed from Dr. Karen Weaver about the impact of institutions from major NCAA Division I institutions choosing new athletic conference affiliations. Her response, printed in the Indianapolis Star, is below:
“In her guest column published in The Star on Tuesday, Dr. Karen Weaver opines that in light of possible expansion of the so-called “power conferences” of intercollegiate athletics, the clock is about to strike midnight for schools such as Butler and Valparaiso and conferences such as the Horizon League.
She believes leagues and schools like ours will be left “without a seat” and “without a dream” amidst the race for expansion, dollars, conference-based television networks and football playoff games.
With all due respect, Dr. Weaver must have limited knowledge of the Horizon League and its mission.
Indeed, I say to her and all others who might care that our dance card has never been busier, the lights have never been brighter and the future never more exciting in the life of the Horizon League, its members and, most importantly, its student-athletes.
Why the optimism? Just a couple of fundamental reasons:
One, the “DNA factor.” The Horizon League DNA is made of athletic competition, learning, service and accountability. We take pride in being able to compete nationally on annual athletics budgets that average $10 million per school (compared to BCS budgets of $40 million-$120 million).
We have held our own in the current unbalanced financial/political system and we will continue to hold our own in the next iteration, whatever form it might take.
Second, it is about our core values. The glue that holds our league together is affordable competition and connected institutional/league values that promote learning, service and accountability. We are not having meeting after meeting fretting about our next big TV deal nor are we wringing our hands worrying about a 16-team Big Ten. Instead, we are working every day to provide the best possible experience for more than 1,600 student-athletes. That includes building our own digital media platform, the Horizon League Network, and filling it full of content that underscores our daily commitment to our model of athletics.
So Dr. Weaver, thanks for the concern, but we will be fine, and you can worry about Penn State and the Big Ten.
While others race for new members, market share, TV dollars, playoff games, and multimillion-dollar coaching contracts, our race is to go as fast as we can to make the Horizon League athletic experience an exceptional added value to the education experience, one that promotes citizenship, responsibility and academic achievement.
That race may not lead us to the Final Four every year, but it can make a positive difference in the lives and futures of our student-athletes. They are the ones we serve, and they are why we exist.