BRENTWOOD, Tenn. - The Ohio Valley Conference announced on Tuesday that Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has been admitted to the Conference and will become the league's 11th member. The move was unanimously approved by the OVC Board of Presidents at their May 30 meeting.
SIU Edwardsville will officially become a member of the OVC on July 1, 2008 while its athletic programs will begin competing in the Conference over the following years as the institution completes its reclassification to Division I. All SIUE team sports will begin regular season competition in the OVC during the 2011-12 academic year and will be eligible for postseason competition in 2012-13. The exception will be the SIUE softball program which will be eligible for both regular season and tournament competition in 2010-11; the softball program was the department's women's sport designee to be fast-tracked to Division I, making it eligible to compete at the Division I level prior to other SIUE sports.
"I am very pleased to welcome SIU Edwardsville as a member of the Ohio Valley Conference," said Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher, OVC Commissioner."The addition of SIUE makes us a stronger conference. After our evaluation of the university, it was clear that it is a Division I institution, given the scope and breadth of its academic and athletic offerings. We fully expect SIUE, given its past history and tradition and the commitment they have shown with budgets and facilities, to be very competitive as a Division I institution. The addition also gives us a presence in the St. Louis market, something that is important to our league."
SIU Edwardsville is located in Edwardsville, Ill., which is just northeast of St. Louis, Mo., the 18th largest media market in the United States. The St. Louis metro population includes over 30,000 alumni of Ohio Valley Conference schools, a number that increases to over 70,000 when SIUE alumni numbers are factored in.
"The addition of SIUE will provide another close, natural rivalry for us and will be very appealing to our almost 20,000 alumni in the Greater St. Louis Metropolitan Area," said Dr. Kenneth W. Dobbins, Southeast Missouri State University President and current Chair of the OVC Board of Presidents.
The University was founded in 1957 and celebrated is 50th year of existence in 2007-08. SIUE sponsors 18 sports (9 men's sports and 9 women's sports) and previously competed as a member of the Division II Great Lakes Valley Conference. SIUE won the GLVC's All-Sports Trophy and Commissioner's Cup in 2006-07 for its overall excellence in athletic competition. This past year the Cougars repeated as GLVC All-Sports Champions. This year SIUE currently ranks in the Top 25 nationally in the U.S. Sports Academy Directors' Cup standings (final standings have not been released yet) after finishing fourth in 2006 and 11th in 2007.
The Cougars have claimed 17 national championships, most recently with the softball team winning the 2007 Division II national title under head coach Sandy Montgomery. Other recent success include the men's track and field program, which has won eight of its last nine conference indoor and outdoor championships under head coach David Astrauskas, and the women's track and field program which has won the GLVC Indoor and Outdoor Championships in each of the last four seasons. In addition, Astrauskas was named the 2008 National Coach of the Year by the USTFCCA. The SIUE men's basketball program also experienced national success when they advanced to the 2006 Elite 8. The Cougars basketball teams compete in the Vadalabene Center, which is just finalizing a $6 million makeover.
SIUE is currently in the reclassification process to Division I, as the program completed its one-year exploratory period in 2007-08 (when it competed against a Division II schedule and was eligible for Division II championships). SIU Edwardsville will compete against a Division I schedule beginning in 2008-09 and will conclude the reclassification process in the 2011-12 season. SIUE will become a full Division I program (and eligible to compete in Division I NCAA Championships) beginning in the 2012-13 season.
With nearly 13,500 students, SIUE is ranked among U.S. News & World Report's Top 10 public master's level universities in the Midwest region. For three years in a row, U.S. News has named SIUE among "America's Best Colleges" for its Senior Assignment Program; the program was also recognized in 2007 as a national model for learning assessment by the Association of American Colleges & Universities. The University offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in arts and sciences, business, education, engineering and nursing as well as professional degrees in pharmacy and dentistry. The School of Dental Medicine is ranked among the best in the nation.
"During the 12 years I was at Murray State University, I was impressed by the high level of OVC competition and great rivalries," said Dr. Vaughn Vandegrift, SIUE Chancellor. "We are most pleased to be joining this association of quality universities."
"I was very appreciative of the OVC's openness, cooperation and candidness with SIUE as we are continuing to make the transition to NCAA Division I competition," said Dr. Brad Hewitt, SIUE Director of Athletics. "In the handful of OVC events I have attended, the Conference's high level of professionalism and dedication stood out. I believe this is a great match for SIUE because of the emphasis placed on creating an atmosphere and environment for our student-athletes to compete on a high academic and athletic level.
"The Ohio Valley Conference is expanding for the first time since 2003 when it added two institutions, including current member Jacksonville State.
The OVC was established in 1948 and is the eighth-oldest Division I conference. With the addition of SIU Edwardsville, the OVC will include 11 teams from five states. The current members of the OVC are: Austin Peay State University (Clarksville, Tenn.), Eastern Illinois University (Charleston, Ill.), Eastern Kentucky University (Richmond, Ky.), Jacksonville State University (Jacksonville, Ala.), Morehead State University (Morehead, Ky.), Murray State University (Murray, Ky.), Southeast Missouri State University (Cape Girardeau, Mo.), Tennessee State University (Nashville, Tenn.), Tennessee Technological University (Cookeville, Tenn.) and University of Tennessee at Martin (Martin, Tenn.).
The OVC currently sponsors championships in 18 sports: baseball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, football, men's and women's golf, rifle, women's soccer, softball, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's indoor track & field, men's and women's outdoor track & field and volleyball.