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 Alabama, Illinois, 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 (HBCU) as a member, namely Tennessee State. 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 will play 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 will remain a member in rifle after it otherwise leaves the OVC.

The OVC responded by adding three new members in 2022. 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 February 2022, the OVC and Big South announced they would merge their football leagues after the 2022 season. The conferences have not announced whether the merged league will be operated by one conference or the other, or become fully separate.[9] 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.[10]


The OVC has 10 full members. Six of these schools play football in the OVC; one plays 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
  1. Morehead State has a football team, but it plays in the Pioneer Football League instead of the OVC.
  2. Postal address; the campus actually lies in unincorporated Vanderburgh County.

Associate membersEdit

The OVC has two "associate" members—i.e., schools that play a small number of sports in the conference, usually one.

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
Murray State University Murray, Kentucky 1922 Public Racers Football[a]
2022 MVC
  1. The football team will play in the OVC in 2022 before joining the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2023.

Former membersEdit

Fourteen schools have been full members, but are no longer in the league. As noted earlier, 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 ASUN
(C-USA in 2023)
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 membersEdit

The OVC had one associate member in the past, but that school left when it folded its only OVC sports team.

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)


  • "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. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  2. "ASUN Conference Welcomes Austin Peay State University as its Newest Member" (Press release). ASUN Conference. September 17, 2021.
  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. 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. 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. "Big South and Ohio Valley Conference Announce Football Agreement" (Press release). Big South Conference. February 22, 2022. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  10. "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.