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ISU gets a new rival: UIC agrees to join the Missouri Valley Conference

 Illinois-Chicago guard Marcus Ottey
Michael Conroy
Illinois-Chicago guard Marcus Ottey (1) plays against Northern Kentucky in the 2020 Horizon League championship in Indianapolis. UIC has accepted an invitation to join the Missouri Valley Conference.

The Bradley University and Illinois State University athletic programs will have a new in-state conference rival for the next academic year.

The University of Illinois-Chicago on Wednesday accepted an invitation to become the 12th member of the Missouri Valley Conference, effective July 1.

The current Horizon League member will join Belmont and Murray State as new Valley schools beginning with the 2022-23 seasons. Adding the Flames allows the MVC to maintain a presence in the Chicago market with Loyola departing to join the Atlantic 10.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era for UIC and Flames Athletics and the most significant single event in our history since announcing the transition to NCAA Division I 40 years ago,” UIC director of athletics Michael Lipitz said in a news release.

UIC's entry keeps the Valley with four Illinois schools, including Southern Illinois. Bradley originally joined the MVC in 1948 and returned to the league in 1955 following a four-year absence. ISU entered the Valley in 1981.

Joe Deacon is a reporter at WCBU.