Belmont leaving OVC for Missouri Valley Conference on July 1

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Belmont is joining the Missouri Valley Conference on July 1 as that league’s 11th member, leaving the Ohio Valley Conference after nine years.

Dr. Greg Jones, Belmont president, announced the decision to change conferences. He called it time for Belmont to take another step and help the university raise its game in all sports.

“We know it will be a challenge for us on the athletic field and courts as we move forward, and we couldn’t be more proud or excited to be taking this next step,” Jones said.

Belmont decided in 1996 to go from NAIA to Division I, first as an independent before joining the Atlantic Sun in 2001. Belmont then went to the OVC in 2012. Athletic director Scott Corley said he’s truly excited about the opportunity to join the Missouri Valley Conference.

The Bruins have won 62 conference championships with 47 NCAA Tournament combined appearances for their teams and athletes.

“To think in 25 years what Belmont has done by going from an NAIA school to now today joining one of the oldest and most prestigious, competitive conferences in all of Division I, it’s really humbling,” athletic director Scott Corley said. “That doesn’t happen very often. … It’s truly phenomenal.”

Belmont is banking on more national exposure joining the Missouri Valley Conference, a league that has multiple NCAA Tournament berths 16 times since 1994 and 20 NCAA Tournament wins in the past eight championships.

Belmont’s men’s basketball team was run by Rick Byrd through the NAIA transition to becoming a top mid-major program. He retired in April 2019 with 805 career victories after leading the Bruins to eight NCAA Tournaments in the last 14 years, including the program’s first at-large berth in 2019.

The Bruins have won 20 conference titles in men’s basketball alone since 2006 with a 130-24 record in league games the past nine seasons.

Only Gonzaga and Kansas have won more in that span nationally. Belmont also is one of only four programs to win at least 19 games in 16 straight seasons, including Gonzaga, Kansas and San Diego State.

Belmont’s women’s basketball team made its fifth NCAA Tournament appearance since 2016 and upset No. 5 seed Gonzaga in March for its first NCAA win.

Austin Peay announced Sept. 17 it was leaving on July 1 for the ASUN. Both Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State left the OVC for the ASUN earlier this year, and the OVC sued both schools in August contending each school didn’t pay a $1 million exit fee.

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