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Western Kentucky to join C-USA

Apr. 02, 2013 @ 12:30 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Conference USA is becoming more fan-friendly for the Marshall Thundering Herd.

C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said Monday that Western Kentucky will officially join the league July 1, 2014.

Tulsa is expected to announce Tuesday that the Golden Hurricane will join the group of schools in what was formerly known as the Big East Conference, leaving C-USA with 14 members for 2014-15 -- five of them within reasonable driving distance from Marshall.

Western Kentucky is in Bowling Green, Ky., which AAA Travel says is 277.5 miles from Huntington.

Recent additions Charlotte (315.5 miles), Middle Tennessee State (370 miles) and even Old Dominion (459.7 miles) all present reasonable road trips for Herd fans.

"We welcome Western Kentucky to Conference USA," Banowsky said in a news 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."

Western Kentucky will leave the Sun Belt Conference following the 2013-14 academic year.

C-USA will have 16 schools in 2013-14 with Marshall joined by Charlotte, East Carolina, Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, Old Dominion, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa (for now), UAB, UTEP and UT-San Antonio.

For 2014-15 the C-USA footprint tentatively includes Marshall, Charlotte, Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, Old Dominion, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulsa, UAB, UTEP, UT-San Antonio and Western Kentucky.

"The move to Conference USA is a great move for WKU and will definitely benefit our football program in a positive way moving forward," said Western Kentucky football head coach Bobby Petrino.

Western Kentucky has 21,124 students and sponsors 19 NCAA Division I sports.

The Hilltoppers have made 23 appearances in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, including a trip to the 2008 Sweet Sixteen and the 1971 Final Four. Western Kentucky is ranked eighth nationally among NCAA schools for winning percentage. The women's basketball team has made 16 trips to the NCAA Tournament, with 11 consecutive appearances between 1985-95 and three trips to the Final Four.

Football has produced 70 All-Americans at the FCS and FBS levels, transitioning to a bowl eligible FBS member in 2009.

WKU volleyball has been to five NCAA tournaments in the last six years. Baseball has averaged 34 wins in the last five seasons with 17 MLB draft picks over the last four years. The Hilltopper track and field program has won 22 conference championships and produced 22 All-America selections since 2008.

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