In its 36th season of operation in the 2014-15 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.
The Horizon League membership features nine 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, 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 four platforms: athletic performance, academic achievement, community outreach, and personal responsibility and accountability. 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 and Valparaiso in 2007. Oakland University accepted membership into the Horizon League on July 1, 2013.
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.
In the past decade, the Horizon League has enjoyed unprecedented success on the national stage, going 19-14 in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in the last 12 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 12 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 13 semesters for carrying a grade-point average of 3.2 or better, including more than 700 for the last eight semesters. 11 student-athletes were named to Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-District teams in 2012-13, while six earned Academic All-America honors..
In addition to its athletics success, the Horizon League has secured a well-earned reputation for its community service initiatives. Each January, member institutions partner with local elementary schools for an art, music and essay contest highlighting the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with winners recognized at League games on the weekend of MLK Day.
The Horizon League Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) also has continued a tradition of working with youth in Indianapolis during its annual summer meeting. In addition, SAAC is partnering with Special Olympics, putting on events for olympians in each community. Several League men’s basketball coaches coached barefoot to support Samaritan’s Feet and Coaches vs. Cancer initiatives, and the League’s schools and fans donate to Komen for the Cure for breast cancer awareness during its annual women’s basketball championship.
On campus, student-athletes have raised money and awareness for such causes as breast cancer, diabetes and hurricane relief, while hosting blood drives, neighborhood clean-ups, Big Brother/Big Sister programs and more.
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 five of the nation’s top 35 in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Milwaukee, 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 nine member institutions’ chief executive officers. Dr. Antonine Garibaldi, President of the University of Detroit Mercy, serves as Board Chair through June 30, 2015. Robert Vowels, Director of Athletics at Detroit, serves as chair of the Executive Council, and Kathy Litzau, Associate Athletic Director/Senior Woman Administrator at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is the Vice Chair and Stephen Fortson of Wright State serves as chair of the Faculty Athletics Representatives.
Jonathan B. (Jon) LeCrone is in his 23rd year as Commissioner of the Horizon League, having been named to the position on May 11, 1992, and is the fifth-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.
The Horizon League has enhanced its media visibility with a number of initiatives. The League is in a three-year agreement with ESPN that includes selected regular-season men’s basketball action (ESPN2) and the men’s championship game (ESPN) and features increased exposures each year on ESPNU.
The Horizon League will co-host the 2015 Final Four, the fifth time the conference has provided support to Indianapolis' Final Four efforts. In 2013 and 2014, the League served as a co-host for the Midwest Regional and will co-host the Women's Final Four in 2016.
HORIZON LEAGUE NETWORK
Having streamed more than 2,900 free, live events in the last six years, the Horizon League is a recognized leader in video streaming, through the Horizon League Network (HLN). HLN takes viewers inside the conference, featuring student-athlete profiles, weekly highlight shows, comprehensive coverage of all 19 Horizon League championships and other special programming.
In 2013-14, HLN and HorizonLeague.com continued its growth as more than 300,000 unique visitors across 149 countries/territories watched HLN coverage.