Western Illinois football to join Ohio Valley Conference in 2024

By Kevin Kelley -

The Western Illinois Leathernecks have accepted an invitation to join the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) in 2024, the school announced on Friday.

Western Illinois will officially depart the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) after the 2023 football season and will join the Ohio Valley Conference beginning in the fall of 2024. All other Leathernecks athletics teams will depart the Summit League and will join the OVC effective July 1, 2023.

“This is going to be an excellent new endeavor for Western Illinois University,” said WIU President Dr. Huang. “We are excited to join our peers of similar size and communities, and we look forward to great competition.”

Western Illinois has been a member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference since 1985, when it was then known as the Gateway Football Conference.

“This represents a new start, and a new era for Leatherneck Athletics against some old rivalries, as well as some new teams in our geographic footprint,” said WIU Director of Athletics Paul A. Bubb. “When you look at the schools in the Ohio Valley Conference, you see schools which are similar in enrollment, the size of communities where they exist, the academic programs they offer and the athletic budgets each has to work with at the Division I level.”

With the addition of Western Illinois, the OVC will increase to seven football members. WIU joins Eastern Illinois, Lindenwood, Southeast Missouri, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, and UT Martin.

“We are delighted Western Illinois has decided to join the OVC,” said OVC Commissioner Beth DeBauche. “The WIU Athletics programs have long competed against OVC institutions given the similarity of programs and geographic proximity. Accordingly, there is a high level of comfort and excitement about the Leathernecks becoming part of the OVC community. We cannot wait to extend a warm welcome to WIU’s student-athletes, coaches, administrators and fans.”

The OVC currently has a football partnership with the Big South Conference. Bryant, Charleston Southern, Gardner-Webb, and Robert Morris comprise the Big South portion of the Big South-OVC.

Future Western Illinois Football Schedules

Comments (21)

What really should happen is the MAC add Cleveland State, Robert Morris, Southern Illinois and Youngstown State as full members, with only the latter two joining for football, and Fordham and Richmond for football only.

This would set off a chain reaction that affects several Central States conferences,

First, one of the MVC’s private members, Valparaiso, is invited to join a new conference that also includes current Big East members Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Marquette and Xavier, A-10 members Dayton, Loyola (Chicago) and Saint Louis, and WCC members Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.

The remaining private schools in the MVC – Belmont, Bradley, Drake, and Evansville – form a new conference with ASUN members Bellarmine and Lipscomb and Summit League members Oral Roberts and St. Thomas.

The MVC then invites current D1 schools Eastern Illinois, Lindenwood, North Dakota, North Dakota State, South Dakota, South Dakota State, Southeast Missouri State, and Western Illinois, plus current D2 schools Grand Valley State and St. Cloud State, to reform into a 16-team conference that changes its main focus from basketball to football, having every scholarship FCS program in the Midwest (except for Central State, which I propose join the SWAC). The MVC would divide into divisions for certain sports along the Mississippi River, with the exception of Northern Iowa being in the East. Each division would have one non-football school – UIC in the East and St. Cloud State in the West. The MVFC would no longer be a separately-operating entity.

Meanwhile the Horizon League adds existing D1 schools Chicago State, Kansas City, Morehead State, Omaha, SIU Edwardsville, and Southern Indiana, D2 schools Pitt-Johnstown and UMSL, and NAIA school UM-Dearborn. The Summit League would thus cease to exist.

The OVC regroups as a Kentucky/Tennessee-only conference, adding Chattanooga and East Tennessee State from the SoCon (for ETSU it is a return to the OVC after having left in 1978), and D2 schools Kentucky State, Kentucky Wesleyan (which has a strong basketball program) and Lane. All 10 schools would play football in the OVC, with a 9-game round robin conference schedule.

Why would Fordham and/or Richmond move from the A10 to the MAC?
Both would lose MBB revenue.

Why would the MAC want Cleveland State, Robert Morris, Youngstown State and/or Southern Illinois to join their conference in any fashion? They would bring nothing to MAC revenue generating sports.

Suggesting either of these moves is puzzling.

Pick up your game Z-man.

Fordham and Richmond would be joining the MAC for football only, like UMass and Temple had done in the past (both also in A-10 at the time)

Fordham and Richmond’ football revenue is roughly what the average MAC school’s revenue is. The MAC asked both UMass and Temple to either join the conference for all sports or leave. As a wrote, neither Fordham nor Richmond is leaving the A10 to join the MAC. Both would lose revenue.

This time around it could be that the MAC would be willing to keep Fordham and Richmond FB-only long term. For all sports, adding CSU and YSU would give the MAC a monopoly on D1 athletics in NE OH, while SIU gives NIU an in-state rival and RMU brings the MAC into the Pittsburgh market, where teams have enjoyed rivalries with Ohio-based teams for decades.

The MAC is a public university conference. Both Fordham and Richmond are private schools. They do not fit the MAC profile. Both Fordham and Richmond athletics conduct heavy financial (69%) institutional support. How would adding either of these schools improve the MAC’s financial revenue flow? It wouldn’t!

I do not think it would be possible to have less of an understanding of the conferences and schools involved than this post. It would not be hyperbole to suggest there are two dozen parts that demonstrate a lack of fundamental knowledge regarding realignment, these schools, and these conferences.

Meanwhile the SoCon would engage in a member swap with the Big South, with Charleston Southern and Gardner-Webb, which have scholarship football, going to the SoCon and UNC Greensboro, which does not have football, going back to the Big South for the first time since 1997. The SoCon would also add Charleston (WV), UVA Wise and UNC Pembroke from D2.

The America East would add three D2 schools that sponsor football – IUP, New Haven, and Shepherd. Those schools would join with current CAA Football members Albany, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island and current Big South football school Bryant to form the new America East football league, with Rhode Island being an associate.

The CAA would add Norfolk State and North Carolina Central to both sides of its conference and Duquesne and Robert Morris just to CAA Football.

The A-10, losing its Midwestern members to the new conference outlined in the previous post and its three Pennsylvania schools to a revamped Big East, adds Drexel, Northeastern, and Winthrop.

The Big South further adds Queens (NC) and the four Florida schools from the ASUN, which also loses Eastern Kentucky to the Sun Belt and Austin Peay, Central Arkansas, and North Alabama to C-USA, forcing the ASUN to reorganize as a D2 league by adding 8 schools from existing D2 conferences:

Delta State
Henderson State
Ouachita Baptist
Valdosta State
West Alabama
West Florida
West Georgia

The ASUN would have plans to return to FCS, and ultimately FBS.

I’m a 1AA Championship Division Fan after watching Playoff Games in 2021, 2022.

My 1A Team has not been a relevant Program @ the Top since 1984, so I’ve 🤩 loved 🥰 the 24 Program Playoff.

Western Illinois has consistently been the 11th-10th worst Program in the powerful MVFC.

I’m very happy that they can join a Conference which has Institutions of a similar Mold to them.

Indiana State Sycamores will fill WIU’s former slot as 11th worst Championship Division Franchise in the Missouri Valley 🏈 Conference.

You’re not wrong Stan.
I don’t know how long you’ve been visiting this website, but he’s been saying that kind of stuff for years now.

Is Z-Man a fictional writer in real life? Seems like if it was up to him every college and university in America would be Division I … and that is just silly.

Morehead State was a Member of the O hio V alley C onference.
2023 will be their 1st in the MVFootballC.

Western IL Uni. is switching places with MoreheadSU in 2024.

IMO, it will stabilize & strengthen WIU’s Athletic Dept..
All Teams will be in the OVC,
unlike right now where Football is MVFC & their primary Conference = The Summit League.

Kevin Kelley,
Exactly right.

Murray State Uni. Racers, Kentucky.

I apologize. My mistake.

Morehead State Uni. is a Middle Eastern Athletic Conference Team in the Baltimore Region.
I think Johnny Unitas = their most famous Football Alum.
Their geographically closest football Rival = the Towson state Uni. Tigers, also close to Baltimore.

I apologize. My Mistake.
This = my 3rd Pass attempt, hopefully it’s a completion for a 1st Down.

On May 14, replying to Kevin Kelley, my 1st 4 statements / sentences were korrekt.

My last listed Uni. was not.

“Morgan State Uni.” should be in the place of Morehead State Uni.

I believe everything I stated about the Morgan State Uni. Bears = korrekt.

The Morehead State Uni. Eagles are the Representatives of the Pioneer Football League in Morehead, KY.

Todd – I believe the legendary Johnny Unitas played his college football at Louisville and not Morehead State. Morehead State is Phil Simms alma mater.

Spencer Coldburn,

You’re exactly right. Not only did I not complete a Pass, I turned the Ball over.

Dan-ke for the Alumnus Information about Phil Simms.

What I read was; John Constantine Unitas & his Spouse became Sponsors, Boosters, Benefactors of Towson State University Tigers for the remainder of their Lives. Their 3 Children attended Towson state University.

Their Football Stadium is named Johnny Unitas Stadium.