College Athletics: Sun Bolt: WKU to leave in 2014
IRVING (AP) — Conference USA will add Western Kentucky and new coach Bobby Petrino at the same time the league’s most recent football champion plans to leave.
Commissioner Britton Banowsky said Monday that Western Kentucky will officially join C-USA on July 1, 2014. That will be after ex-Arkansas coach Petrino’s first season in charge of the Hilltoppers.
That is also when Tulsa, the defending Conference USA football champion, is expected to join a migration to the league that’ll no longer be known as the Big East.
A person familiar with the decision said Tulsa was planning to announce Tuesday that it will join the Big East football schools in their soon-to-be renamed league in 2014. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because an announcement had not been made.
The renamed Big East will have 12 members in 2015 when Navy joins for football only. Among that group will be seven ex-Conference USA teams: Tulsa, Tulane, East Carolina, Central Florida, SMU, Houston and basketball power Memphis.
As all the teams leave, Conference USA has been moving constantly to find replacements, often from the Sun Belt. Western Kentucky is the latest addition.
When the Hilltoppers officially move, they will be the fifth team in a year to switch from the Sun Belt Conference to C-USA.
Current Sun Belt members Middle Tennessee, Florida Atlantic, Florida International and North Texas are leaving for Conference USA this summer, a year before the Hilltoppers re-join them.
“The tradition of the university and its athletics success is truly remarkable,” Banowsky said of Western Kentucky.
“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 BCS.”