Belmont has become the 12th school in the Ohio Valley Conference, leaving the Atlantic Sun after 10 years. Over the past few years, the Bruins have dominated the A-Sun in basketball, including a 30-5 (19-1) campaign last season, before bowing out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Wisconsin. But what will this mean for the rest of the conference?
For football, not a thing. The Bruins aren’t a football school.
For basketball, a lot. Belmont will enter the conference in the 2012-13 season as a likely contender. Not only are they are a historically strong basketball school, they are also in Nashville, which will likely provide a huge fan boost for the OVC Tournament. Their coach, Rick Byrd, has been at the school since the ’86-’87 season, 4 years longer than the OVC’s current longest serving coach, Dave Loos.
Having 12 teams will likely cause the OVC to split the conference into two divisions, with a schedule much like the SEC. (Home-Away versus teams in division, one game against opposing division for a 16 game schedule.) Dividing the conference could be a task without dividing at least the biggest rivalries for each school. It also benefits school’s travel schedules…divisions will likely be determined by geography, meaning more short trips and fewer long trips. This will save money for the entire conference.
When Belmont went to the A-Sun, there was talk of the Bruins joining the OVC then, but at the time word is the conference wanted football schools. (They soon added Samford and Jacksonville State) The addition of Belmont, and recently SIU-Edwardsville, appears to show that the conference has changed their view on adding non-football schools, and that could open the way for another Nashville school that has discussed joining the OVC; Libscomb. Would the OVC expand to 13 teams? I think it’s unlikely. But with Jacksonville State recently passing a resolution to look for a FBS conference to join, it’s clear the Gamecocks time in the OVC is limited.
So is Belmont another Samford or (assuming they leave for a FBS conference) Jacksonville St, here today, gone tomorrow? It’s unlikely. As a non-football school, they’re going to seek out the best basketball conference that allows for non-football schools in the south. Right now, the OVC is their best bet. The Bruins are probably here to stay.