Conference USA has officially announced the addition of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in all sports effective July 1, 2014.
“We welcome Western Kentucky to Conference USA,” C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said. “The tradition of the University and its athletics success is truly remarkable. The men’s basketball program has made seven NCAA appearances since 2000, the women’s basketball program has advanced to three NCAA Final Fours and football went to a bowl game last season in just its fourth year in the FBS.”
The Hilltoppers will leave behind the Sun Belt, a conference they joined in 2009 after playing two seasons as an FCS Independent. WKU has never won a championship at the FBS level, but did capture the I-AA title in 2002.
Conference USA will now have 13 teams in 2014 when Western Kentucky and Old Dominion join and East Carolina, Tulane, and Tulsa depart. In 2015, C-USA will be at 14 after the addition of Charlotte.
Those numbers take into account the fact that the Tulsa Golden Hurricane are expected to leave Conference USA for the soon-to-be-renamed Big East in 2014.
The Sun Belt Conference is now faced with the necessity of adding another football school. Last week, the SBC added Appalachian State and Georgia Southern to get to 12 schools, but the loss of WKU brings them back down to 11. The loss of the Hilltoppers wasn’t unexpected, however.
“Today’s announcement that Western Kentucky University has accepted an invitation to join Conference USA is not a surprise given the communication that I have had with university officials and the rampant speculation over the past several months,” Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson said today in an official release.
“I remain confident that we have numerous options and that there are universities that have a strong desire to be members of the Sun Belt Conference.”
Benson did not mention any prospects, but James Madison and Liberty have been rumored as schools that could possibly join the Sun Belt.