Western Illinois University is actively exploring the possibility to exit the Summit League. In a report from The McDonough Voice, school president Dr. Guiyou Huang and athletic director Danielle Surprenant have formally met with the school’s Board of Trustees to discuss the issue. The university is exploring its current conference affiliation with the Missouri Valley Football Conference and the Summit League.
“Without disclosing too much, we are doing this very thoughtfully, we have options on the table to stay or leave, those are the two options,” said Huang. National rumors have the Leathernecks exploring a move of all their sports to the Ohio Valley Conference, a more appropriate regional fit for WIU. The Ohio Valley Conference football teams include Eastern Illinois, Murray State, Southeast Missouri State, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and UT Martin. Murray State is said to be a candidate for the Missouri Valley Conference. Austin Peay recently announced their intention to remove their football program from the OVC.
According to President Huang, AD Surprenant is said to be leading “difficult conversations, Title IX, other related topics. She’s now collecting data to help us determine the pros and cons of staying and the pros and cons of leaving.”
In a somewhat cryptic take, Huang went on to state, “Resources are the biggest challenge now and expectations, hopefully, before the end of the semester we’ll have the data collected and analyzed. It is not a decision I am making alone. Right now I did have a change in my head, I was in one place three months ago, but I’m in a different spot now.”
The key decision for Western Illinois is whether to move out of the Missouri Valley Football Conference where they are a founding member. A secondary consideration in the Leathernecks’ final decision is moving all their other sports away from the Summit League to the Ohio Valley Conference.
The reality is that the Summit League is a conference of convenience for the non-Dakota schools. While non-Dakota schools and fans complain about the Dakota-centric focus of the Summit League, the reality is that these are the only stable schools in the conference. Many fans from the Summit League’s newest member, St. Thomas, see the Summit League as a temporary landing spot before seeking greener pastures.
Photo courtesy of Western Illinois University