MACOMB, Ill. (KHQA) — After spending 41 years in the Summit League and 38 years in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, Western Illinois will become the newest member of the Ohio Valley Conference effective July 1st.
Rumors of Western Illinois joining the OVC had been going around for years and at one point, it was a viable option for the Leathernecks.
However--the timing wasn't right.
Now , after many discussions, the decision was made and Athletic Director Paul A. Bubb says this opens up new opportunities.
"We start looking at some in-state competition, some rivals that we can have and right now it's tough to find a rival for us, but all of a sudden, Eastern Illinois, who we've competed against for a number of years, is now a conference affiliate again like they were back in the old mid-con days," Bubb said. "You also add into that SIU-Edwardsville and then SEMO, UT-Martin, so we think it's a really good fit for us."
One of the key factors when making the decision was travel.
This move will bring shorter trips which will have a positive impact on the school financially.
"Our early estimates are that we can save as much as $250,000," said Bubb. "Now, we need to reallocate that money within the athletic department to take care of some other things to make our opportunities and competitions better. But certainly, being able to reallocate those type of resources will have a very important impact on our program."
It will also provide a better experience for the student-athletes playing more games in the region.
"If you listen to the student-athletes talk about getting on a bus, riding for 8.5/9.5 hours to the competitions we go to, listening to students talk about taking Dramamine to try to survive those trips, you really have to wonder what that student-athlete experience has been like and how can we improve that and make it better," Bubb said.
The Leathernecks will join the league with Eastern Illinois, Lindenwood, SIUE, SEMO, Little Rock, Morehead State, Tennesse State, Tennessee Tech and UT Martin.
Bubb says WIU has a lot in common with the existing OVC schools and Western Illinois will be a good addition.
"The teams that are in the OVC look very much like Western Illinois University. Enrollment, academic mission, the athletic budgets, the sports that we have that we compete with. It's a good fit for us all around."
WIU will depart from the Summit League for all sports beginning this fall and will leave the Missouri Valley Conference prior to the Fall of '24.