In 2023, Murray State will join the ranks of the Missouri Valley Football Conference. (Image by Murray State University)
By Dan Verdun
Patty Viverito has been the Missouri Valley Football Conference commissioner since the league’s inception in 1985. While she has seen change, today’s issues stand atop the mountain of transition.
“In my 40 years working in college sports, I have never witnessed so much uncertainty in the collegiate landscape,” Viverito said during Monday’s MVFC media days opening Zoom session.
“We’ve got the continuing pandemic. We’ve got the transformation committee working on issues that surround our transfer rules, our name, image and likeness rules,” she said, also noting conference realignment and legal issues.
Yet, Viverito does also see positives.
“Despite that upheaval, we didn’t just get through the 2021 season,” Viverito said, “we had unprecedented success.”
The 70-year-old commissioner then listed the MVFC’s many achievements from wins over FBS teams to establishing the league as the best at the FCS level to North Dakota State capping the year with yet another national championship.
She also noted that the conference is coming off a season in which six of its members made the 24-school playoff field, the highest total in its history. Southern Illinois was one of those six playoff qualifiers; in fact, the Salukis have made the postseason two straight seasons.
Illinois State and Western Illinois are also members of the 11-team conference. Murray State, in its final year in the Ohio Valley Conference, joins the football league next season.
The MVFC has reached the FCS title game 11 straight seasons. Of course that total is mostly thanks for North Dakota State, winners of nine national titles since 2011.
Moreover, that stronghold seems even greater as former FCS title rivals James Madison, Sam Houston State and Jacksonville State are transitioning to the FBS level.
Asked if the Bison dominance was good for FCS as a whole, Viverito said, “I think every time you win a national championship is a good thing. I’ll leave it at that.”
The future of FCS
Given the uncertainty of collegiate football as the FBS appears to be headed toward mega conferences, where do teams at the FCS level fit in?
“I think that is a league-wide discussion that will ultimately be decided by (university) presidents,” Viverito said. “I can tell you that each and every year I get to (each conference) campus and this year will be no exception.”
Viverito also shared that she will no longer be serving as league commissioner on a multisport level, thus giving her time to focus solely on football.
“This year I’ll be able to come early, stay late. I intend to meet with every coach, every AD and every president over the course of this fall,” she said. “As things unfold nationally, I think we have to have a game plan in place for how we will fit into whatever landscape develops.
“To me, the key to success across the entire division is that we maintain our ties to the highest level of Division I football. And that’s for the good of the game.”