WIU will leave Summit League, accepts invitation to join Ohio Valley Conference

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MACOMB, Ill. — The move makes sense.

Western Illinois University athletic director Paul Bubb announced Friday the school had accepted an invitation to join the Ohio Valley Conference and will begin competing in its new league this fall. WIU president Guiyou Huang signed the agreement Friday morning.

The decision puts WIU in a league that is part of its geographic footprint, limits travel and should help create regional rivalries.

None of those things were possible in the Summit League.

“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,” Bubb said in a press release. “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.”

Again, it just makes sense.

WIU was a charter member of the Mid-Continent Conference in 1982 — the league rebranded itself as the Summit League in 2007 — when the conference featured teams from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Ohio. As schools changed conference affiliations, the footprint of the Summit League changed, too.

Currently, there are 10 schools in the Summit, with WIU the only one from Illinois. The league features two schools each in North and South Dakota and one each in Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

The OVC’s current membership includes 10 schools located in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee. Former Great Lakes Valley Conference members Lindenwood and Southern Indiana are part of the OVC.

“The WIU Athletics programs have long competed against OVC institutions given the similarity of programs and geographic proximity,” OVC Commissioner Beth DeBauche said. “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.”

WIU officially will join the OVC on July 1.

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