Belmont

The dominoes keep falling for the Ohio Valley Conference.

Most recently, Austin Peay announced a week ago it will bolt to the ASUN, and now Belmont is on its way to the Missouri Valley Conference, according to a report from Matt Brown of Extra Points.

Brown also broke the Austin Peay news last week. An official announcement could come sometime next week.

Belmont would be the fourth OVC school to leave the OVC since July. In addition to Austin Peay, Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky University have already left for the ASUN (though are playing football this year in the WAC).

With Belmont seemingly on its way out the door, Murray State could be close behind. The Racers and Bruins have been the OVC’s top hoops rivalry, and several sources have said conferences were pursuing both as a packaged deal. Belmont does not sponsor a football program, but losing the Bruins men’s and women’s basketball programs is a huge blow to the OVC. 

The BU men’s program has won 19 or more games in 16 straight seasons with nine NCAA Tournament appearances, including the school’s first-ever at-large bid. Belmont has 20 conference championships since 2006 — third-most nationally behind Kansas and Gonzaga.

The women’s program has five NCAA Tournament appearances since 2016 and upset No. 5-seeded Gonzaga last year.

The MVC is considered by most college basketball observers and media as superior (and, in some respects, significantly more so) to the OVC. The league offers, among other programs, Indiana State, Southern Illinois, Evansville and Valparaiso, all within driving distance of Nashville. The league tourney is held annually in St. Louis. Valley programs are located in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri. 

Should Murray State leave for the MVC also, the OVC would need to find a sixth school to join Eastern Illinois, Southeast Missouri, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and UT-Martin to maintain the six-program football requirement to receive an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs.

Chattanooga, East Tennessee State and Western Illinois are rumored frontrunners for potential OVC expansion.

“We are clearly in a time of change for intercollegiate athletics, and the Ohio Valley Conference embraces this moment, committed to the institutions and student-athletes whom we serve and confident in our future,” OVC commissioner Beth DeBauche said in a statement last week.

"That future is rooted in membership growth, and we are currently in discussions with other institutions that share our philosophy and want to prosper in today’s intercollegiate athletic environment by being part of the OVC...We look forward to adding schools who, like the members of the OVC, are committed to our principles and our goals. We invite other colleges who are seeking this type of conference experience, for the betterment of their institutions, to contact us. The OVC welcomes those conversations.”

*This is a developing story and will be updated when more information is available.

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_

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