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Ohio Valley Conference (1941-) | Eastern Kentucky University - Special Collections and Archives

Name: Ohio Valley Conference (1941-)

Historical Note:

The idea of  forming the Ohio Valley Conference  (OVC)  was originated in 1941 but could not be implemented until after World War I.  In 1948 five schools, Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State, Murray State, Western Kentucky, and Louisville, withdrew from the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and, along with Evansville, formed the original membership of the Ohio Valley Conference - so named because the Ohio River touched the states from which the league drew, or hoped to draw, members.  The six charter OVC members were soon joined in this new league by Tennessee Tech and Marshall.

Louisville withdrew from the Conference in 1949 and Marshall being replaced by Middle Tennessee in 1952, East Tennessee and Austin Peay in 1962. In 1979, Akron replaced East Tennessee and was joined by Youngstown State in 1980.  Western Kentucky withdrew in 1982.  In 1986 Tennessee State became the Conference's newest member. Akron withdrew membership in 1987 and Youngstown State will withdraw in 1988.

The OVC has held automatic qualification for the NCAA Basketball Tournament since 1955.  At that time, it was only second six-team league to be awarded an automatic bid. The OVC has had a number of team and individual successes over the years but the past six have seen three conference members claim national championships; Eastern Kentucky in 1-AA  football (1979-1982), Tennessee Tech in NCAA Rifle (1980, 1981), and Murray State in NCAA Rifle in 1985.

Official championship competition in the OVC is held in six men's sports: football, cross country, basketball, baseball, golf, and tennis and four women's sports:  cross country, basketball, volleyball, and tennis.  All sports are conducted within NCAA Division 1 except football, which is I-AA.

Arthur L. Guepe served as the OVC's first commissioner, from 1963 to 1975.  He was succeeded by former administrator and coach at South Carolina and LSU, Paul Dietzel, who held the post for a year at which time Robert Vanatta, former athletic administrator at Oral Roberts, assumed the position.  James E. Delaney became the league's fourth commissioner in July of 1979 and serves in the post today.  Jon Verner was named the OVC's first full-time information director in August of 1979.  At the 1980 Spring meeting of the Ohio Valley Conference, presidents of the member institutions designated Eastern Kentucky University Archives as the official depository for the conference's older records of continuing and enduring historical and administrative value.

The purpose of the OVC, as set forth in its constitution is, "to regulate, control and promote all recognized branches of intercollegiate athletics in its member institutions. Member institutions of the Ohio Valley Conference regard the athletic program as part of the educational process... it is the college's responsibility to exercise control of the athletic program and keep it within the bounds of an educational activity."*

*Information taken from Handbook of the OVC, 1986-87, p.5.

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