Bobby Petrino and the Hilltoppers are moving on up.
Following up on reports from this weekend, Conference USA has announced that Western Kentucky will become the league’s 14th member beginning in 2014.
“We welcome Western Kentucky to Conference USA,” commissioner Britton Banowsky said in a release. “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.”
WKU will replace Tulsa, which is reportedly on its way to the soon-to-be-renamed Big East. The Hilltoppers also follow Sun Belt members FAU, FIU, North Texas and Middle Tennessee to C-USA. Other members of C-USA will ultimately include former WAC schools Louisiana Tech and UT-San Antonio; new members Old Dominion and Charlotte; and current members Marshall, Rice, Southern Mississippi, UAB and Texas-El Paso.
“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 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.”
While not official, reports have indicated the Sun Belt will look to Liberty or James Madison as a replacement for WKU.