Citing increased exposure and football bowl game opportunities, WKU President Gary Ransdell and Athletic Director Todd Stewart announced Monday that the school will join Conference USA on July 1, 2014.
Following a unanimous vote by the WKU Board of Regents late Monday morning, WKU officials and the Conference USA commissioner held a news conference a short time later announcing the pact.
C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said WKU brings a lot to the conference.
“We want to provide an opportunity to the next generation of great universities, and (WKU) certainly fits that profile. I think they’re a growing university connected to some large markets like Nashville and Louisville, and frankly I think they have a tradition of excellence,” said Banowsky.
WKU will play one more season in the Sun Belt, a conference WKU joined in 1982.
For the second-straight year WKU has willed itself to a Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship appearance, and a win on Monday night at 6:00 (CT) against fourth-seeded FIU would send WKU to its 23rd NCAA Tournament and fourth in the last six seasons.
WKU sophomore T.J. Price’s steal and layup with 19 seconds remaining erased a one-point deficit Sunday night as the Hilltoppers advanced to the championship game of the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Tournament with a 58-56 win over second-seeded Arkansas State.
Monday's game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
The Hilltoppers have stormed through the bracket this season, winning three games in three days thus far to advance to its 13th Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship game, where WKU is 8-4 all-time.
WKU shot nearly 70 percent from the floor in the first half to help open a 46-24 halftime lead and roll to a 74-60 win over 11th-seeded ULM in the first round of the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Tournament Friday night in Hot Springs, Ark. The win is WKU's fourth in the last five games and moves its overall record to 17-15 on the season.
WKU also advanced to its 22nd-straight Sun Belt Conference Tournament quarterfinal with the victory and will face third-seeded South Alabama at 8:30 PM (CT) Saturday.
WKU went 18-for-26 from the floor in the first half (.692) and finished at 58.3 percent from the game (28-for-48), and the Hilltoppers tied a season high with 11 three-pointers. WKU was led by T.J. Price's 18 points, and George Fant went 6-for-6 from the floor en route to 12 points and five rebounds. Caden Dickerson sank three three-pointers in the game, as did Kevin Kaspar, and 10 Hilltoppers scored in the game.
With the win, WKU advances to the quarterfinals of the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Tournament to face third-seeded South Alabama Saturday night at 8:30 (CT) on the Convention Center Court.
WKU’s Michelle Clark-Heard has been named the Sun Belt Conference Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year. Two of her players—sophomores Chastity Gooch and Alexis Govan—were named First Team All-Conference selections in a survey of the league’s coaches and media members.
Gooch was also named Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year.
Voters recognized Coach Clark-Heard for turning the team around in her first season on the hill. The Lady Hilltoppers take a 20-9 record into this week’s conference championships. Last season, the team won only nine games.
Gooch has averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds this season. Govan averaged over 20 points a game, and hit more than 42-percent of her three-point attempts.
WKU picked up its third-straight win Thursday night at E.A. Diddle Arena, knocking off South Alabama 79-73, behind 22 points by T.J. Price and three other double-figure scorers. The win improves WKU to 16-14 overall and 10-9 in Sun Belt Conference play entering the final regular-season game on Saturday.
WKU is now 10-1 over the last two seasons in games played on or after February 21, and the Hilltoppers have won 16 of their last 19 home games. With the win, WKU equaled last season's win total five games sooner.
Price hit eight free throws and two three-pointers en route to his fourth 20-point game in his last six outings, and George Fant added 13 points and eight rebounds. Brandon Harris contributed 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists, and Aleksejs Rostov had 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Augustine Rubit led South Alabama with 23 points and nine rebounds, and Javier Carter had a double-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks.