Belmont University has accepted an invitation to join the Ohio Valley Conference as its 12th member institution, effective July 1, 2012, President Dr. Robert C. Fisher announced Friday. Belmont University will begin competition in the Ohio Valley Conference in the 2012-13 academic year.
“The Ohio Valley Conference is one of the most tradition-rich and respected athletic conferences in NCAA Division I,” Fisher said. “We were honored by the invitation to join such a great family of fine universities, and look forward to establishing new traditions and new friendships.”
Belmont University joins Austin Peay State University, Eastern Illinois University, Eastern Kentucky University, Jacksonville State University, Morehead State University, Murray State University, Southeast Missouri State University, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University and the University of Tennessee at Martin.
“Given Belmont University’s commitment to excellence, both in the classroom and on the playing fields, they are a wonderful fit for the Ohio Valley Conference,” said Beth DeBauche, OVC Commissioner. “I am delighted to welcome them to the Conference. They are a wonderful addition and the right fit for the OVC.”
The far-reaching academic successes of Belmont University Athletics – most notably seven Atlantic Sun Conference All-Academic trophies in nine years and 26 consecutive semesters of a departmental G.P.A. of 3.0 or higher – mirror the academic standards of the Ohio Valley Conference. The OVC boasts 196 all-time Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America selections, including 35 in the last four years.
“The addition of Belmont University adds great value to our already stable and healthy Conference,” said Dr. Thomas Rakes, University of Tennessee at Martin Chancellor and current Chair of the OVC Board of Presidents.
“This is an exciting day for Belmont University and our athletic program as a whole,” Belmont University Director of Athletics Mike Strickland said. “Membership in the OVC offers our student-athletes and alumni numerous opportunities and advantages, and we look forward to forging these new relationships.”
Founded in 1948 and headquartered in Brentwood, Tenn., the Ohio Valley Conference is the eighth-oldest NCAA Division I athletic conference. In 1995, the OVC implemented a first-of-its-kind “Sportsmanship Statement” – a policy promoting the principles of fair play, ethical conduct and respect for one’s opponent. The statement answered the challenge of the NCAA Presidents Commission to improve sportsmanship within collegiate athletics, and has become a model for others to follow across the nation.
On the field of competition, the OVC has distinguished itself among the nation’s best. In particular, men’s basketball has been an area of considerable strength for the OVC, one of just 10 conferences – and one of only four non-BCS conferences – to record victories in three consecutive NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championships. This past year, seven OVC institutions earned postseason play in basketball (four men, three women).
Moreover, the OVC has also recorded NCAA Tournament victories in volleyball and softball in the last three years, while a conference-record 13 OVC players were selected in the 2010 Major League Baseball Entry Draft.
Though it has no plans to compete on the gridiron, Belmont also stands to benefit from the rich history and national exposure derived from Ohio Valley Conference and NCAA FCS football. The OVC has produced numerous National Football League standouts, such as Phil Simms, Tony Romo, Cortland Finnegan, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. This past fall, Jacksonville State defeated reigning Cotton Bowl Champion, Ole Miss.
The OVC maintains a longstanding relationship with the ESPN family of networks, with nationally-televised games for men’s basketball.
Belmont University, which expects to enroll more than 6,000 students in the fall of 2011, has won 30 conference championships and made nine NCAA Tournament appearances since joining the Atlantic Sun Conference in 2001-02. Belmont men’s basketball has risen to national prominence, with eight conference championships, six postseason appearances and four NCAA Tournament automatic berths since 2004. This past season, the Bruins finished with a 30-5 record, earned national poll votes for nine consecutive weeks, and received a No. 13 seed in the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships.
In addition, Belmont men’s and women’s cross country have combined for 13 conference crowns and 25 All-South Region runners since 2001. Belmont volleyball represented the Atlantic Sun in the 2006 and 2008 NCAA Tournament.
Women’s basketball and women’s soccer have totaled six Atlantic Sun Conference championships and two NCAA Tournaments appearances.
Six Belmont student-athletes have earned NCAA Division I All-America honors: Colleen Nilson (volleyball), Blake Owen (baseball), Alex Renfroe (men’s basketball), Lynette Rives (women’s track & field), Adam Sonn (men’s basketball) and Keely Weaver (women’s track & field). Click here for more on this story.