Missouri Valley Football Conference Commissioner Patty Viverito wasted no time addressing the elephant in the room during her opening statement on the conference’s virtual media days Monday.
“Conference realignment is large and impending,” Viverito said. “Looking ahead, there is no doubt that the college landscape is in a state of upheaval. … Nobody has answers whether they purport to have some or not.”
Following the announcement of the move by USC and UCLA to join the Big Ten last month, the rapidly changing landscape of college football moved to the forefront of most college football discussions.
Viverito noted the changes since the introduction of new NIL legislation, one-time transfer rules and the latest round of realignment.
“In my 40 years working in college sports, I have never witnessed so much uncertainty in the collegiate sports landscape,” Viverito said. “We have the continuing pandemic. We have a transformation committee that is working on issues that surround our transfer rules, our name, image and likeness rules … we have legal threats too numerous to mention.”
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Recent changes in the college football landscape forced MVFC and the other FCS conferences to reconsider their expectations for the future of the subdivision, according to Viverito.
“Conference realignment continues to be destructive to FCS overall,” she said. “Last year at this time, we were speculating that we would have more FCS leagues, more automatic bids, less at-large teams. At this point in time, I think contraction in the FCS -- the number of conferences -- is just as likely as not.”
Status of MVFC
With the MVFC’s status as a top league in the FCS, the conference managed to avoid losing valuable members during the previous round of realignment in the early 2010s.
Viverito believes the conference’s geographic footprint played a major role in its ability to maintain its members while other FCS conferences lost key members.
“Being located in the upper Midwest has certainly helped shelter the Missouri Valley Football Conference from the realignment madness both past and present,” Viverito said. “If our schools were located in the south, there is no doubt in my mind we would not look the way we look. We are somewhat protected given our geography.”
According to Viverito, the MVFC also benefits from rivalries inside and outside the conference.
“The biggest benefit for The Valley is that our most important rivalries are within our league,” Viverito said. “Our biggest challenge on the national front is each other. As long as we stay together and committed to this level of football, I think our future is bright. … It is also really important to have a really worthy rival in the Big Sky Conference. That makes the nonconference competition really important to our fans.”
Viverito capped off the discussion by stating the conference would continue holding to its mission statement as its "North Star."
“It means that we will do everything in our power to strive for NCAA football championship no matter what form that takes,” Viverito said.
As the new season approaches, the MVFC continues to hold a place among the top leagues in the FCS.
According to Viverito, national polls featured four MVFC teams in the top seven teams, and seven teams appeared in the top 25.
Viverito also took a moment to highlight the successes of the conference as a whole and by individual members. She first pointed to South Dakota State’s 42-23 win over Colorado State in September.
“Despite that ongoing upheaval, we did not just get through the 2021 season, we had unprecedented success,” Viverito said. “We set the tone early with an FBS win in week one. … Our MVFC teams have combined for 47 all-time wins against FBS schools in our history.”
Viverito added that she is excited for the 11 games scheduled by member schools against FBS opponents this season. Success against FBS opponents also was highlighted.
“Last season, Missouri Valley Football Conference teams went 25-5 against nonconference FCS teams,” Viverito said. “Those wins were highlighted by yet another win in the Big Sky Challenge Series, which we have won every year since its inception in 2017. Even more importantly, the Missouri Valley Football Conference has had the edge in the playoffs against Big Sky schools, going 8-3 against those teams in the past four seasons.”
According to Viverito, the nine MVFC players taken in the 2022 NFL Draft marked the most in an individual draft in the history of the league.
“We also set records with the NFL Draft in the offseason,” Viverito said. “Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning was a first-round pick and the highest Panther that has ever been selected, and he is our third first-round pick since 2016.”
Former Illinois State linebacker Boomer Grigsby also made history as the first player from the MVFC to be inducted into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame.
Grigsby holds the record for most career tackles in the FCS and was a three-time MVFC Defensive Player of the Year.
When Northern Iowa takes the field in Grand Forks, North Dakota, for its conference-opener on Sept. 10, a familiar face will line up across from the Panthers.
North Dakota head coach Bubba Schweigert said the Fighting Hawks’ coaching staff likes the work ethic former UNI running back Tyler Hoosman has shown since joining the program.
“He has been really awesome this summer,” Schweigert “We are really pleased with him. He will have opportunity to compete for a lot of carries.”
After joining the Panthers in 2017, Hoosman amassed 1,034 yards on 255 carries and 12 touchdowns. Following the 2021 season, Hoosman entered the transfer portal as a graduate transfer with one season of eligibility.
Hoosman’s experience in the MVFC also will be a valuable asset, according to Schweigert.
“It is always an advantage when a guy has played college football,” Schweigert said. “He has played against conference opponents so he knows the intensity of these games and the quality of play in these games. That gives him an advantage preparing for games.”
Two Panthers appeared on the Stats Perform FCS Preseason All-America Teams, according to a press release from the school Monday.
Senior placekicker Matthew Cook received first team honors after nailing 86.4% of his field goal attempts and 100% of his PATs in 2021. The Cedar Falls native also averaged 58.3 yards per kickoff.
Redshirt senior linebacker Spencer Cuvelier landed on the second team after an injury-shortened season in 2021. Despite only appearing in eight games, the Cresco native earned First Team MVFC Defense honors.
Stats Perform named a first, second and third team with representatives from all 15 FCS conferences and 57 schools.