After losing Austin Peay, Belmont, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State this calendar year, the Ohio Valley Conference finally went public with a response.
The OVC announced a scheduling alliance for the 2022 and 2023 seasons with the Southland Conference on Monday, ensuring both conferences will assemble a competitive non-conference slate against other FCS-level teams.
“Our presidents, chancellors and athletic directors have enthusiastically supported this alliance,” OVC Commissioner Beth DeBauche said in a release. “We are delighted to work together to promote one another and provide a quality student-athlete experience.
“This partnership strengthens not only both football leagues, but the FCS overall with quality non-conference matchups. Given the changing Division I landscape, this demonstrates ways that conferences can collaborate to support one another.”
Per a press release, both conferences have ESPN broadcast agreements and stand to benefit from increased cross-conference exposure and branding.
After Austin Peay departs, the OVC will boast six schools that sponsor football programs: Eastern Illinois, Murray State, Southeast Missouri State, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and UT-Martin, which is currently ranked No. 17 in the FCS rankings.
Conversely, the Southland Conference has seven football schools, including Baptist University, the University of the Incarnate Word, McNeese State, Nicholls State, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana University (which is ranked No. 11 in the FCS rankings) and Texas A&M University-Commerce.
There have been reports that Murray State is pursuing conference realignment options with a goal to end up with Belmont in the Missouri Valley Conference. Should that happen, the OVC would fall below the six-team threshold needed for an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs.
Should Murray leave, the OVC could look to add another team that sponsors football or form a partnership similar to the one the ASUN formed with the WAC to keep an automatic FCS bid.
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