Realignment In the OVC
(St. Louis, MO) – Murray State did not leave the Ohio Valley Conference, but the venerable league is realigning anyway. During the OVC’s 70th season the schedule and standings will look a lot different in 2017-18.
The divisional races are gone, the conference season contains more games and a slightly more balanced schedule lies ahead.
Since 2012 the OVC crowned divisional champions who were then given the top two seeds in the conference tournament. This season, the league will simply anoint one regular season champion and the second place team will join the title winner with a double-bye in the OVC tournament.
Gone with the divisional play is the 16-game league schedule. OVC teams will play 18 conference games. Assistant Commissioner for Strategic Communications Kyle Schwartz tells us the league presidents and officials felt there was a need to make sure the best OVC teams were able to qualify for the league’s tournament.
In recent seasons the East has been the stronger of the two divisions. In two of the five seasons under the old format, a West Division champion received that double-bye instead of a team from the East that earned a better conference record. During one other season, the West winner was tied with the second place team in the East.
Schwartz says the 18-game schedule for the twelve-team league will follow a similar schedule pattern to the one played in recent years.
With the two additional conference games, the teams will play a more balanced schedule and every three years they will have played every league foe both at home and on the road.
Even with the changes in the schedule, the season ending tournament will continue to include just the top eight OVC teams. Schwartz says league officials believe that is the best way to showcase the league’s talent.
After flirting with the Missouri Valley Conference, Murray State remains in the OVC and the league is enjoying a good stretch of conference stability. Schwartz says the university presidents believe it is important for the conference to remain as homogenous as possible, and that the universities and their athletic programs mirror one another in some significant ways.
The upcoming season will be an interesting one for the OVC. For the first time in decades Dave Loos won’t be patrolling the side lines at Austin Peay. He has been replaced by Frank Martin disciple Matt Figger. Two-time ‘Player of the Year’ Evan Bradds has graduated from Belmont and coach Ray Harper seems to have turned Jacksonville State into a true conference contender.
Murray State returns two all-conference players (Jonathan Stark and Terrell Miller), while Eastern Kentucky brings backe Nick Mayo and sophomore-to-be Asante Gist. Nine of last season’s top 15 all-conference players have graduated or transferred.
Schwartz says the competition for the eight spots at this season’s conference tournament will be stiff.
That tournament will no longer be called ‘Music City Madness’ since it has been relocated (at least for this season) to Evansville’s Ford Center.