WKU fans face shorter travel times, stronger competition

Lucas Aulbach

The ripples caused by WKU’s from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA will impact Topper fans as much as the program.

The move to C-USA reunites WKU with its closest rival, Middle Tennessee State, as well as keeping its base of conference opponents in the east and southeast.

The geography of the Sun Belt had undergone drastic changes over the past week, with the conference adding two west-coast teams — Idaho and New Mexico State — along with Appalachian State and Georgia Southern to replace members that had departed for C-USA.

The move also allows WKU to continue current rivalries as well as pick up older ones.

WKU will face rival MTSU once again in the Sun Belt along with three other schools currently in the Sun Belt — Florida Atlantic, Florida International and North Texas. C-USA also includes teams such as Old Dominion and Alabama-Birmingham, which faced WKU in the Sun Belt in the past before moving to different conferences.

Athletics director Todd Stewart said the opportunity to reconnect with old Sun Belt foes played a big role in the way he and WKU president Gary Ransdell looked at the decision.

“I think the relationships — the new schools that we will be playing that really aren’t new to our fans and our history but we haven’t played in a while — were a big part of this,” Stewart said. “. . . Those relationships create a level of excitement that will infuse all of our programs moving forward.”