COLUMN: WKU not moving from the Sun Belt

Andrew Robinson

I hope those Sun Belt Conference logos on the field at Houchens-Smith Stadium were painted on with some heavy-duty paint.

They’re not going anywhere.

While WKU officials haven’t spoken extensively about conference realignment, they really should just forget it all together.

Until this football program really finds its way, we’ll keep reading hardbound books about the best decade of Sun Belt Football.

WKU took the necessary steps to grow the university’s brand by moving the football program up to the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Now as athletic directors and presidents across the country polish their facilities and programs in hopes of being allured to bigger and better pastures, the Toppers better settle in.

Sure, there’s a rich basketball tradition on both the men’s and women’s side. The volleyball, cross country and track teams are constantly at the top of the conference, too. But at the end of this day, this is about the gridiron.

There’s a lot going against WKU. It’s tucked between two power conferences in the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference, constantly competing for television.

Heck, just being on the eastern half of the country is hurting the cause.

Look at a map of the FBS schools across the nation. They’re nearly on top of each other in this part of the country.

So the question becomes for commissioners looking to add teams: What will WKU bring to the table financially for the rest of the conference that we’re not getting right now?

I think the answer is plain and simple.

Not much.

Not much judging by the average 15,140 fans at WKU’s four home games this year.

Don’t get me wrong — moving to a bigger conference with more exposure would certainly be a positive for WKU. However, if your own fan base isn’t showing much interest right now, then what would make a conference commissioner say, “We’ve got to get these guys in our conference and on television a lot”?

While the Hilltopper Sports Satellite Network is a great asset to show basketball in markets like Louisville and through Fox College Sports, it’s not helping football, and football is the key to moving conferences.

Conference realignment won’t be over tomorrow. It won’t be over in five years either.

This isn’t football Head Coach Willie Taggart or Athletics Director Ross Bjork’s fault. They work every day to put WKU in a position to win both on and off the field.

But now as the football program continues to build over the coming years, the challenge becomes for WKU officials to strategize a way to set itself apart and show it will bring true market value to a new conference.

If WKU truly wants to move from the Sun Belt, it must be aggressive and become some of the best salespeople in the country.