Western Illinois leaving Summit League, Missouri Valley Football Conference for Ohio Valley

WIU was a founding member of both conferences, then known by different names.

South Dakota State linebacker Adam Bock (32) dives in an attempt to make a tackle with safety Cale Reeder (25) nearby as Western Illinois running back Jaylen Reed carries the ball during a Missouri Valley Football Conference contest on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, at Dykhouse Stadium, in Brookings.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic

MACOMB, Ill. — A founding Summit League and Missouri Valley Football Conference member is changing conference affiliation.

Western Illinois, which joined the Summit League in 1982 and MVFC in 1985 — then known as the Mid-Continent Conference and the Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference, respectively — as a founding institution, is headed to the Ohio Valley Conference for all athletics programs, per a university announcement on Friday.

"This represents a new start, and a new era for Leatherneck Athletics against some old rivalries, as well as some new teams in our geographic footprint," said WIU director of athletics Paul A. Bubb. "When you look at the schools in the Ohio Valley Conference, you see schools which are similar in enrollment, the size of communities where they exist, the academic programs they offer and the athletic budgets each has to work with at the Division I level."

Per a release from the Summit League, it received WIU’s official request to withdraw on Friday. WIU’s withdrawal from the conference will be effective prior to the 2023-24 academic year on June 30, 2023.

For football, specifically, the Leathernecks will play out the 2023 schedule in the MVFC before departing for the OVC in 2024.


“Despite today’s news, the Summit League’s foundation is strong. Our focus remains on being a leading Division I conference with a resolute commitment to broad-based competitive success, high academic achievement, and preparing future leaders,” said Summit League commissioner Josh Fenton. “The League and its member institutions are aligned and will continue working on bold strategies to further strengthen the membership and enhance the experiences for our student-athletes.”

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