Admission to C-USA all about timing

WKU President Dr. Gary Ransdell, Conference-USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky, and WKU Athletic Director Todd Stewart announce on Monday Western Kentucky’s move to C-USA in 2014.

Lucas Aulbach

One of the biggest moves in the history of WKU athletics had to wait for a lot of dominoes to fall before it could happen.

WKU’s move from the Sun Bet Conference to Conference USA may have just been announced Monday, but talks of the move started months ago, WKU president Gary Ransdell said at Monday’s press conference.

He said he and athletics director Todd Stewart had been in contact with C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky about the move months ago.

“With some of the moves that were made recently and the footprint of the Sun Belt Conference changed so dramatically, we determined that it was time for us to try and control our own destiny,” Ransdell said. “I reached out to Britton and he was responsive — we stayed in touch over the last several months, things finally came together this past week and we were delighted to formalize what had been speculation and possibilities up until that point.”

The Sun Belt underwent a total facelift over the course of the past 12 months — North Texas and Florida International announced they would move from the Sun Belt to C-USA last May, while Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee announced they would switch to C-USA in November.

Athletics director Stewart said the departure of several traditional Sun Belt powerhouses influenced WKU’s decision to switch conferences.

“After carefully monitoring and analyzing the collegiate landscape for a significant period of time, it became clear to Dr. Ransdell and I that the many strengths and attributes of Conference USA made this conference the ideal future home for WKU,” he said.

Last week the Sun Belt added four schools — New Mexico State, Idaho, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern — to take the place of the departing schools, but WKU already had one foot out the door at that point.

The tipping point for WKU came when it was reported that Tulsa would leave C-USA for the Big East. A C-USA member since 2005, the departure of Tulsa opened up a spot in the conference that WKU could fill starting in 2014.

However, Ransdell said conversations about moving to C-USA had taken place between he and Banowsky up to a year ago, though most early conversations were casual and filled with “what if” scenarios.

“Fortunately, he an the presidents of Conference USA member institutions certainly did listen and as the change in the landscape of intercollegiate athletics occurred around us, we knew it was time to grow and seek to control our own destiny,” Ransdell said.

Banowsky said while changes in conference affiliation can be tiring, the change should be a positive one for WKU.

“The way we look at it, change is an opportunity,” Banowsky said. “You can either resist change or you can embrace it and try and convert it into something really special. That’s been our approach to it and we’re very excited about the group of universities we’ve got going forward.”