By JOHN BOHNENKAMP
Western Illinois was a charter member of the Mid-Continent Conference, the predecessor to the Summit League, when it was formed in 1982.
Now the university has found a new home.
Western Illinois will be joining the Ohio Valley Conference on July 1 for all sports, ending its affiliations with the Summit League and the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
The football program, which was a charter member of the Gateway Conference, the predecessor to the Valley, will play the 2023 season in the Valley before moving to the OVC next year. All other sports will begin competition in the OVC this fall.
“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,” Western Illinois athletics director Paul Bubb said in a statement. “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.”
Western Illinois joins Eastern Illinois, SIU-Edwardsville, Lindenwood, Little Rock, Morehead State, Southeast Missouri State, Southern Indiana, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and Tennessee-Martin.
The agreement between the university and the conference was signed by WIU president Guiyou Huang Friday morning.
“This is going to be an excellent new endeavor for Western Illinois University,” Huang said. “We are excited to join our peers of similar size and communities, and we look forward to great competition.”
The Leathernecks finished in a tie for fourth in the Summit League men’s basketball standings last season, while the women’s team finished ninth. Western Illinois last won a Summit League men’s basketball title in 2013, while the women’s team won the regular-season and tournament titles in 2017.
Photo: WIU’s Jesiah West goes for a rebound in a game against Oral Roberts last season. (John Lovretta/iowacollegehoops.com)