The Big Ten Conference -- the home of the Iowa Hawkeyes -- announced last week that, as of 2024, USC and UCLA athletics would be leaving the PAC-12 and joining their conference.

The news at the Power-5 level of Division I sports continues today, as it appears a few more teams from out west will be joining the Big 12 Conference as well.

One story regarding conference realignment at the DI level has been swept under the rug over the last week though, as these major conferences continue to dominate the headlines.

As of Friday, July 1, the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) has officially added three more members to its conference. Belmont, Murray State, and Illinois-Chicago (UIC) will play their first games as members of the MVC in the fall of 2022.

The decisions to add the three aforementioned schools came after Loyola-Chicago Athletics announced they'd be leaving to join the Atlantic-10 Conference.  All their sports, All of the school's sports except women’s golf and men’s volleyball -- which the A-10 doesn't sponsor -- will make the leap to the new conference. They were a part of the MVC since 2013.

With what is assumed to be a large focus on men's basketball, Belmont and Murray State add a competitive edge to the MVC that Loyola leaves behind. The two schools were previously part of the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC), where one of the two either won the OVC regular season or tournament title in each of the last 12 years.

The likelihood of multiple teams making the NCAA Tournament from the MVC drastically increases with the high level of basketball both teams play along with schools like Northern Iowa, Bradley, Drake, and Missouri State who were already in the conference.

UIC fills the void in the Chicago market that Loyola held over the previous decade as well. The importance of the largest city in the midwest can't be overstated -- both in exposure for athletic programs and (hopefully) increased enrollment for schools across the conference.

Murray State football also plans to join the Missouri Valley Football Conference at the start of the 2023 season.

A Breakdown of UNI's 2022 Football Schedule

The Panthers will embark on their 2022 season in September of this year. Let's take a look at who they'll face, including some of the best in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

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