Keith Taylor 2021

Eastern Kentucky University’s partnership with the Ohio Valley Conference came to an end last week.

The university announced its plans to leave the Ohio Valley Conference and join the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Colonels were one of the founding members of the OVC, a league that once had Western Kentucky University and Middle Tennessee State, Louisville, Marshall, Akron, East Tennessee State, Samford and Youngstown State in the fold.

Morehead State and Murray State, along with Eastern helped form the league in 1948, a partnership that has spanned more than seven decades. Some consider the move a lateral one, while others questioned why even leave the OVC?

Truthfully, the Atlantic Sun offers better marketing potential for Eastern than the current makeup of the OVC. Although the road trips will be a little longer than those stops in the Ohio Valley, it will be worth the extra mile for Eastern, which has more alumni and supporters near and around cities within the Atlantic Sun than the OVC.

Past history suggests that teams who have left the OVC have found a path to success. Marshall, Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky are part of Conference USA.

Back in the day — the Roy Kidd era — Eastern’s biggest rivals in the OVC were Western and Middle, while the Marshall was Eastern’s biggest regional rival.

Eastern likely will keep Morehead State on the schedule, especially in men’s basketball, but while OVC rivalries will no longer exist, new ones will be created as the Atlantic Sun expands its conference to include football.

Although Atlantic Sun will offer the league winner an automatic berth in FCS playoffs.

The guess here is the league will eventually make the move to the FBS in the new future, one more reason to explain Eastern’s bold move amid a pandemic and rich history with the OVC.

The OVC hasn’t been flashy in the football playoffs and Eastern’s influence as a national championship contender has dwindled during the past two decades.

The men’s basketball team has enjoyed unprecedented success in the league during the past 20 years.

Former University of Kentucky standout Travis Ford laid the foundation, and for the most part, his successors have followed the trend set by Ford.

Current Colonels coach A.W. Hamilton has Eastern back in the forefront following Dan McHale’s brief three-year tenure.

Eastern’s future opponents in the Atlantic Sun will include Liberty, North Alabama, Bellarmine, Lipscomb, North Florida, Jacksonville, Stetson, Florida Gulf Coast, Kennesaw State and current OVC foe Jacksonville State.

Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee proved you can succeed beyond the OVC.

That in itself gives the Colonels optimism for the future as they transition to a new conference.

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