SPORTS COLUMN: Exploring the effects of continuing conference realignment

SPORTS+COLUMN%3A+Exploring+the+effects+of+continuing+conference+realignment

There has been something happening throughout the past year, the effects of which will be felt for some years to come.

It seemed as if it was dying down, but recently it has resurfaced and led to more uncertainty.

I am of course talking about the conference realignment that is happening in the OVC.

Back in January 2021, Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky announced their intentions to leave the OVC in July of that year.

Then in September, Austin Peay and Belmont announced they too would be leaving the OVC in July 2022.

These moves shrank the OVC from 12 to eight members.

Then last month, the conference responded to the departures with the addition of Little Rock as a new member.

After that, all was well. The OVC was back up to nine teams and was in discussion with more potential members.

Then 2022 began with the news that Murray State would also be leaving the OVC.

This was the most consequential departure to date, as it left the conference with only five football programs, falling one shy of the minimum number of teams required for a conference to receive an automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs.

That is perhaps the most tangible problem with the recent exodus from the OVC.

Another problem is that, with the departures of Belmont and Murray State, the OVC will be losing perhaps its two most respected basketball programs.

On both the men’s and women’s sides, Belmont has been a force in the OVC since it joined the conference in 2012.

Both are also ranked in the most recent release of the College Insider Mid Major Top 25, with the men ranking sixth and the women rank-ing 19th.

The Murray State men’s team is also ranked in the same poll, coming in atNo.9.

The Racer women are not ranked in that poll, but are off to a 10-4 start this season and are 2-1 so far in conference play.

Little Rock brings a strong women’s basketball program to the OVC, as the Trojans received votes in the Mid Major Top 25, officially coming in at No. 31.

The OVC’s reputation seemed to be growing as a basketball conference.

The Belmont women won their

opening game of the NCAA Tournament last season, becoming the first OVC women’s basketball team to do so.

Chelsey Perry of Tennessee-Martin also became the first OVC women’s basketball player to be selected in the WNBA Draft last year.

Belmont’s success has also attracted attention on the men’s side, as has the meteoric rise of former Murray State star Ja Morant, now a star for the Memphis Grizzlies.

The realignment may be harmful to the OVC’s reputation, at least for now.

It is impossible to know what the OVC will look like in several months, or even in several weeks. But we can certainly expect a very different conference in the not-too-distant future.

 

Adam Tumino is a senior journalism major. He can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]