Ohio Valley Conference

US college athletic conference

The Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) is an American college sports conference that plays in the NCAA Division I. In football, the OVC is part of Division I FCS, the lower of two levels of Division I football. The member universities and colleges are in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee. The OVC has its offices in the Nashville suburb of Brentwood, Tennessee.



The OVC grew out of talks between officials at three Kentucky schools—Eastern Kentucky, Murray State, and Western Kentucky—in 1941. America's entry into World War II later that year put these talks on hold for several years. Later, in 1948, the three original schools joined with two other Kentucky schools, plus one in Indiana, to form the conference.

It was one of the first conferences with a presence in the South to accept black athletes at historically white-only schools, with Morehead State being the first OVC member to do so in 1958. The OVC was long notable as being the only conference made up of traditionally white schools to have a historically black university (Tennessee State) as a member. That changed when Hampton and North Carolina A&T left the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference for the Big South Conference, respectively in 2018 and 2021. (Both moved together to the Colonial Athletic Association in 2022.)

The OVC has had major membership changes in recent years. In 2021, it lost founding member Eastern Kentucky, plus Jacksonville State, to the ASUN Conference.[1] A year later, three more members left, with Austin Peay moving to the ASUN,[2] and founding member Murray State[3] and Belmont[4] joining the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). However, since the MVC does not play football, Murray State played the 2022 football season in the OVC before moving the football team to the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2023. (The MVFC is separate from, but closely related to, the MVC.)[5] Murray State remained a member in rifle after it otherwise left the OVC.

The OVC responded by adding three new members in 2022 and one in 2023. The University of Arkansas at Little Rock, athletically known as Little Rock, joined from the Sun Belt Conference. It does not have a football team.[6] The other new members started transitions from NCAA Division II. Lindenwood University plays football;[7] the University of Southern Indiana does not.[8] In 2023, Western Illinois University joined from the Summit League for almost all of its sports. It kept football in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and men's soccer in the Summit League for the 2023–24 school year, and will move both sports to the OVC in 2024.[9][10]

In February 2022, the OVC and Big South announced they would merge their football leagues after the 2022 season.[11] The merged entity was later unveiled as the Big South–OVC Football Association, technically an alliance between the two conferences instead of a full merger of the football leagues. The alliance has a single automatic berth in the FCS playoffs.[12] Also, shortly after the 2022 membership changes took effect, the OVC and Horizon League merged their men's tennis leagues under the Horizon's banner.[13]



The OVC has 11 full members. Six of these schools play football in the Big South–OVC alliance; two play football in another conference; and three do not play football at all. All members are public schools except for 2022 arrival Lindenwood.

School Location Founded Type Nickname Joined Football member?
Eastern Illinois University Charleston, Illinois 1895 Public Panthers 1996  Y
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
(Little Rock)
Little Rock, Arkansas 1927 Public Trojans 2022  N
Lindenwood University St. Charles, Missouri 1827 Private Lions 2022  Y
Morehead State University Morehead, Kentucky 1922 Public Eagles 1948  N[a]
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
(SIU Edwardsville)
Edwardsville, Illinois 1966 Public Cougars 2008  N
Southeast Missouri State University Cape Girardeau, Missouri 1873 Public Redhawks 1991  Y
University of Southern Indiana Evansville, Indiana[b] 1965 Public Screaming Eagles 2022  N
Tennessee State University Nashville, Tennessee 1912 Public Tigers &
Lady Tigers
1986  Y
Tennessee Technological University Cookeville, Tennessee 1912 Public Golden Eagles 1949  Y
University of Tennessee at Martin
(UT Martin)
Martin, Tennessee 1927 Public Skyhawks 1992  Y
Western Illinois University Macomb, Illinois 1899 Public Leathernecks 2023  Y[c]
  1. Morehead State has a football team, but it plays in the Pioneer Football League instead of the Big South–OVC alliance.
  2. Postal address; the campus actually lies in unincorporated Vanderburgh County.
  3. Western Illinois football will play in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in the 2023 season and join the Big South–OVC alliance in 2024.

Associate members


The OVC now has six "associate" members—i.e., schools that play a small number of sports in the conference, usually one. The most recent changes to the associate membership were the departure of Murray State football to the Missouri Valley Football Conference after the 2022 football season and the addition of four associates in July 2023. All four of the new associates joined in the newly sponsored OVC sport of men's soccer, and one of those also joined for men's and women's golf.

Chicago State will leave after the 2023–24 school year when it joins the Northeast Conference, which sponsors all of the school's OVC sports.

School Location Founded Type Nickname OVC sport(s) Joined Main conference
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Chattanooga, Tennessee 1886 Public Mocs Beach volleyball 2019 SoCon
Chicago State University Chicago, Illinois 1867 Public Cougars Men's and women's golf
Men's soccer
2023 Independent
(NEC in 2024)
Houston Christian University Houston, Texas 1960 Private Huskies Men's soccer 2023 Southland
University of the Incarnate Word San Antonio, Texas 1881 Private Cardinals Men's soccer 2023 Southland
Liberty University Lynchburg, Virginia 1971 Private Flames[a] Men's soccer 2023 CUSA
Murray State University Murray, Kentucky 1922 Public Racers Rifle 2022 MVC
  1. While Liberty uses "Lady Flames" as the nickname for women's teams, only men's soccer is an OVC member.

Former members


Fourteen schools have been full members, but are no longer in the league. Former full member Murray State remains an OVC associate member.

School Location Founded Type Nickname Joined Left Current conference
University of Akron Akron, Ohio 1870 Public Zips 1980 1987 MAC
Austin Peay State University Clarksville, Tennessee 1927 Public Governors 1962[a] 2022 ASUN
Belmont University Nashville, Tennessee 1890 Private Bruins 2012 2022 MVC
East Tennessee State University Johnson City, Tennessee 1911 Public Buccaneers 1958 1978 SoCon
Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, Kentucky 1906 Public Colonels 1948 2021 ASUN
University of Evansville Evansville, Indiana 1854 Private Purple Aces 1948 1952 MVC
Jacksonville State University Jacksonville, Alabama 1883 Public Gamecocks 2003 2021 C-USA
University of Louisville Louisville, Kentucky 1798 Public Cardinals 1948 1949 ACC
Marshall University Huntington, West Virginia 1837 Public Thundering Herd 1949 1952 Sun Belt
Middle Tennessee State University Murfreesboro, Tennessee 1911 Public Blue Raiders 1952 2000 C-USA
Murray State University Murray, Kentucky 1922 Public Racers 1948 2022 MVC
Samford University Homewood, Alabama 1841 Private Bulldogs 2003 2008 SoCon
Western Kentucky University Bowling Green, Kentucky 1906 Public Hilltoppers &
Lady Toppers
1948 1982[b] C-USA
Youngstown State University Youngstown, Ohio 1906 Public Penguins 1981 1988 Horizon League
MVFC (football)
  1. Austin Peay's football team left the OVC in 1997, but the school stayed in the OVC for other sports. The football team returned in 2007.
  2. Western Kentucky's football team returned to the OVC for the 1999 and 2000 seasons.

Former associate members


The OVC has had one prior associate member that left when it folded its only OVC sports team. A second school was an OVC associate in two sports in 2022–23, but now only houses one sport in the OVC.

School Location Founded Type Nickname OVC sport(s) Joined Left Main conference Conference in former
OVC sport
Columbus State University Columbus, Georgia 1958 Public Cougars Rifle 2012 2015 Peach Belt (Div. II) None (dropped rifle in 2015)
Murray State University Murray, Kentucky 1922 Public Racers Football 2022 2023 MVC MVFC


  • "OVC History". Ohio Valley Conference. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  1. "ASUN Conference Announces Three New Institutions; Adds Football as 20th Sport" (Press release). ASUN Conference. January 29, 2021. Archived from the original on January 29, 2021. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  2. "ASUN Conference Welcomes Austin Peay State University as its Newest Member" (Press release). ASUN Conference. September 17, 2021. Archived from the original on November 15, 2022. Retrieved August 27, 2022.
  3. "Murray State University Joins The Missouri Valley Conference" (Press release). Murray State Racers. January 7, 2022. Retrieved January 7, 2022.
  4. "Belmont University to Join Missouri Valley Conference" (Press release). Belmont Bruins. September 28, 2021. Archived from the original on September 28, 2021. Retrieved September 28, 2021.
  5. "Murray State Football To Join Missouri Valley Football Conference July of 2023" (Press release). Missouri Valley Football Conference. April 4, 2022. Archived from the original on April 4, 2022. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  6. "Little Rock Receives Board Approval to Join Ohio Valley Conference" (Press release). Ohio Valley Conference. December 8, 2021. Retrieved December 8, 2021.
  7. "Lindenwood University to Join the Ohio Valley Conference in 2022-23" (Press release). Ohio Valley Conference. February 23, 2022. Retrieved February 23, 2022.
  8. "University of Southern Indiana to Join the Ohio Valley Conference in 2022-23" (Press release). Ohio Valley Conference. February 9, 2022. Retrieved February 9, 2022.
  9. "Western Illinois University to Join the OVC in 2023-24" (Press release). Ohio Valley Conference. May 12, 2023. Retrieved May 12, 2023.
  10. "Western Illinois University Officially Becomes an OVC Member" (Press release). Ohio Valley Conference. June 30, 2023. Retrieved July 3, 2023.
  11. "Big South and Ohio Valley Conference Announce Football Agreement" (Press release). Big South Conference. February 22, 2022. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  12. "Big South-OVC Football Association Reveal Co-Branded Logo" (Press release). Big South-OVC Football Association. June 7, 2023. Retrieved August 16, 2023.
  13. "Horizon League Announces Innovative Partnership with Ohio Valley Conference and Men's Tennis Programs, Adds Chicago State as an Affiliate Member for Men's and Women's Tennis" (Press release). Horizon League. July 6, 2022. Retrieved July 9, 2022.