In its 38th season of operation in the 2016-17 academic year, the Horizon League continues to aspire toward its goal of being one of the nation’s leading athletics conferences while being recognized as a leader in the development of student-athletes as leaders and role models. Each of the League’s 2,600 Division I student-athletes has the opportunity to maximize athletic development and academic achievement, while also serving the broader community and growing in personal responsibility and accountability. Through athletics, the 150,000-plus undergraduates among Horizon League institutions have the opportunity to come together, learn and grow in life skills and opportunities.
The Horizon League membership features ten public and private institutions that have impressive academic reputations and a storied tradition of broad-based athletic programs. Membership includes Cleveland State University, the University of Detroit Mercy, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northern Kentucky University, Oakland University, Valparaiso University, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Wright State University and Youngstown State University.
The Horizon League’s primary focus is on adding value to the educational experience through its core values: student-athlete well-being, integrity, respect and stewardship. It is the League’s belief that athletics is a powerful and visible resource tool that can be used to enhance student-athletes’ collegiate experience. The Horizon League’s goals are to enhance the holistic university experience for the student-athlete, to create an affiliation of institutions with similar athletic goals, and to adhere to the principals of integrity, diversity, excellence and growth. The Horizon League sponsors competition in 19 sports - nine for men (baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, swimming and diving, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field and tennis) and 10 for women (basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, tennis and volleyball).
The League receives automatic bids to NCAA championships in baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s volleyball, and for the first time in League history, women’s golf. The Horizon League is headquartered in Indianapolis, the “Amateur Sports Capital of the World,” with offices in the Pan American Plaza (201 S. Capitol Avenue), located a block from Lucas Oil Stadium and just minutes from Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the State Capitol Building, Victory Field (home of the Indianapolis Indians) and the NCAA national office.
A PROUD HISTORY
Founded on June 16, 1979, as the Midwestern City Conference with six charter members, the League changed its name to the Midwestern Collegiate Conference in 1985 and added women’s sports for the 1986-87 academic year. Charter members of the conference included Butler University, the University of Evansville, Loyola University Chicago, Oklahoma City University, Oral Roberts University and Xavier University.
Among other current members, Detroit joined in 1980, and Cleveland State, UIC, Green Bay, Milwaukee and Wright State came aboard in 1994 (along with Northern Illinois University) in the largest non-merger conference expansion in history. Youngstown State joined in 2001, Valparaiso in 2007 and Oakland in 2013. The newest member, Northern Kentucky University, accepted an invitation into the League on May 11, 2015.
On June 4, 2001, the Horizon League unveiled its current name and ushered in a new dynamic direction that has brought the League closer to its stated goal of being one of the nation’s top ten collegiate athletic conferences with a focus on enhancing the student-athletes’ experience by upgrading the League’s market and competitive positions.
The Horizon League has enjoyed unprecedented success on the national stage, going 19-16 in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in the last 14 years, the seventh-best winning percentage among Division I conference. Highlights include a seven-year stretch of winning at least one tournament game, culminating with Butler’s second consecutive appearance in the NCAA men’s basketball championship game appearance where the Bulldogs fell to Connecticut, 53-41, in 2011.
Green Bay’s women’s basketball team became the league’s first team to reach the Sweet 16 in 2011, knocking off Michigan State in the second round before going toe-to-toe with No. 1 seed Baylor in the regional semifinals. The Phoenix earned a No. 5 seed in the tournament, going 34-2 on the year and holding a perfect 16-0 mark in Horizon League play. The Phoenix backed up that performance by reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2012.
Men’s soccer has tasted victory in seven out of the last 13 years (Milwaukee 2002-05, UIC 2006-08), with UIC just one win away from the College Cup in 2007. In softball, League teams won a game in the national tournament four straight years earlier in the decade (UIC 2002, 2004; Wright State 2003; Green Bay 2005) while the Milwaukee women’s soccer program advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2011. Butler’s Victoria Mitchell became the League’s first NCAA individual champion when she won the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2005 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Horizon League student-athletes also excel in the classroom as more than 500 have been named to the Academic Honor Roll each of the past 19 semesters for carrying a grade-point average of 3.2 or better, including more than 700 for the last 14 semesters.
In addition to its athletics success, the Horizon League has secured a well-earned reputation for its community service initiatives. The League has a conference-wide partnership with Special Olympics. Each institution hosts at least one Special Olympics event on their campus each year. Also, the Horizon League Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) has continued a tradition of working with youth in Indianapolis during its annual summer meeting. In additional to Special Olympics the league SAAC participated in the One Love Foundation “Escalation” workshop and facilitator training in the summer of 2016. The workshop educates young people about relationship violence and empowers them to work for change. The SAAC set a goal to conduct workshops on each campus during the 2015-16 academic year and engage other departments on campus. Our monthly institutional features will highlight community service projects Horizon League student-athletes are participating on their respective campuses.
One of the Horizon League’s points of emphasis is fostering collegial environments for competition among student-athletes, coaches, administrators and fans in a pro-active approach. Among the vehicles is the Ethical Conduct Pledge, which is signed each season by student-athletes, coaches, officials, and campus and League administrators. Its purpose is to make all the involved groups aware of the Horizon League expectations of behavior during conference events.
Horizon League institutions boast a combined enrollment of more than 130,000 plus nearly a quarter-million living alumni centered in the League’s Midwest footprint. League media markets include six of the nation’s top 36 in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Cincinnati, covering more than ten million television households and encompassing more than nine percent of the nation’s television audience.
The Horizon League is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of the ten member institutions’ chief executive officers. George Hynd, President of Oakland University, serves as Board Chair through June 30, 2017. Jeff Konya, Director of Athletics at Oakland, serves as chair of the Executive Council, and Kim Smith, Associate Athletic Director/Senior Woman Administrator at Valparaiso, is the Vice Chair and Phyllis King of Milwaukee serves as chair of the Faculty Athletics Representatives.
Jonathan B. (Jon) LeCrone is in his 25th year as Commissioner of the Horizon League, having been named to the position on May 11, 1992, and is the fourth-longest tenured commissioner among the 31 Division I conferences. He is the fifth commissioner in League history, succeeding Daniel B. “Tucker” DiEdwardo (1989-92), James W. Shaffer (1984-89), Cecil N. Coleman (1980-84) and James J. McCafferty (1979-80).
LeCrone recently completed a four-year term on the NCAA Division I Leadership Council after serving a five-year term on the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee. He presently sits on the Division I Values-Based Revenue Distribution Working Group.
The Horizon League continues to enhance its media visibility with a number of initiatives. The League is in the midst of an agreement with ESPN that includes selected regular-season men’s basketball action (ESPN2 and ESPNU) and the men’s basketball championship (ESPN, ESPNU).
Additionally, the League was one of the first conferences in the nation to make its inventory of athletic events available in the digital space, launching the Horizon League Network in 2006. Having delivered over 3,300 live events in that span, the League began delivering events to ESPN3 in 2014 and provided more than 650 broadcast events via the ESPN3 platform in 2015-16.
While continuing to set the bar for live event streaming, the Horizon League has also played a role in supporting NCAA Championship events in Indianapolis. After co-hosting the 2013 and 2014 Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regionals, the Horizon League was the co-host for the 2015 Final Four, the sixth time (1991, 1997, 2000, 2006, 2010) the League has served in that role.
The Horizon League co-hosted for the 2016 Women's Final Four as well, marking the third time (2005, 2011) the conference has worked in that capacity.
In 2017, the League will once again co-host the NCAA Men's Basketball 1st and 2nd Rounds, this time at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
In 2010, the Horizon League, along with national-runner up Butler University, co-hosted the 2010 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, becoming the first conference to host a Final Four while one of its members participated. A year later, the League successfully co-hosted the 2011 Women’s Final Four at Conseco Fieldhouse while Butler was playing in its second consecutive Men’s Final Four.