Big South, Ohio Valley announce football association beginning in 2023

By Kevin Kelley -

The Big South Conference and the Ohio Valley Conference have announced they have signed a letter of intent to create a football association beginning with the 2023 season.

The agreement will combine the football membership of the two conferences to “…ensure NCAA championship access.” The combination of the two conferences will give them the required number of teams to earn an automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs, similar to the ASUN-WAC agreement last season.

“The Big South – Ohio Valley Conference football association will strengthen the efforts of both conferences to provide greater opportunities for our student-athletes,” stated Dr. J. Bradley Creed, Chair of the Big South Council of Football Members, Chair of the Council of Chief Executive Officers, and President of Campbell University. “This move has the unanimous support of the CEOs of the football schools in the Big South Conference, and we look forward to enlarging and enlivening the field of competition for our teams. I commend President Glassman and his colleagues in the OVC for their role in establishing this collaboration.”

Per the release, details of the Big South-OVC association and a football schedule for the 2023 season will be finalized in the coming months.

“The OVC is pleased to come together with the Big South to establish a new FCS football model, aimed at ensuring outstanding competition and championship access for our student-athletes,” said Dr. David Glassman, President of Eastern Illinois University and Chair of the OVC Board of Presidents. “The world of intercollegiate athletics is changing, and all of the OVC members are looking forward to working with Dr. Creed and the rest of the Big South presidents to establish a new paradigm for FCS football across our region. In addition, we welcome the participation of other leagues interested in working together for the betterment of intercollegiate athletics.”

Both the Big South and OVC have suffered membership losses in the last several months. The Big South lost Hampton and Monmouth to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) beginning in 2022, while North Carolina A&T will leave for the CAA in 2023. Affiliate members Kennesaw State and North Alabama also moved to the ASUN last season.

The OVC also lost two affiliate members, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State, to the ASUN Conference last season. Austin Peay is also departing for the ASUN effective July 1, 2022.

As is stands now, the Big South-OVC association would include Campbell, Charleston Southern, Eastern Illinois, Gardner-Webb, Murray State, Robert Morris, Southeast Missouri, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, and UT Martin. Murray State, however, has been in negotiations to leave the OVC for the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

Comments (2)

This is specifically for football, but it can’t be too far in the future where alignments like these may have to occur for other sports.

The OVC has had some moments as a basketball conference, but the Missouri Valley Conference AKA “The Valley” is the pinnacle of FCS football at the moment and if Murray State wants in bad enough, they’ll likely get in. The travel expenses will go up with trips to Grand Forks and Fargo, North Dakota from Murray KY, hope Murray State athletics is prepared for that. Though their money coming in for athletics would increase with the move.

There will likely be nine schools remaining in this alignment after the dust settles.

And expect more alignments and mergers with FCS conferences in the near future.