Bowling Green, Ky. — Western Kentucky University will face four opponents from Bowl Championship Series conferences and 10 overall from the NCAA Division I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision) level as part of its 2008 football schedule, which was released Wednesday.
In addition to a previously announced contest against instate foe Kentucky (Sept. 27), the Hilltoppers will open the season at Indiana (Aug. 30) while also visiting Alabama (Sept. 13) and Virginia Tech (Oct. 4). Those are four of WKU’s seven road games scheduled for the fall.
The slate will also feature five match-ups against Sun Belt Conference schools one season prior to the Toppers’ gaining eligibility to compete for the league championship and a bowl berth after completing a two-year transition to the FBS/I-A level.
“I really like our 2008 schedule and how it helps position us competitively for the future as well as the immediate national visibility it will provide,” said WKU Director of Athletics Dr. Wood Selig. “The 2008 season will be somewhat unique for WKU in that we are a I-A counter in our second and final year of transition. However, we operate as an independent with all games being non-conference match-ups — but, as such we will have no opportunity for a league championship or a bowl game. Thus, we have designed a schedule in 2008 that will be attractive to our student-athletes and fans with quality home games and several bowl type road games.
“We will face 10 I-A opponents and two former I-AA rivals in what could arguably be considered the most daunting football schedule in the history of the program. We were able to do some creative scheduling in 2008 that we may never have the capacity or opportunity to replicate in the future.
“We are certainly seeing an immediate pay off in our move to I-A given the quality and diversity of our 2008 schedule.”
“We are excited about how this 2008 schedule has turned out, the positives that it brings to our program are almost countless. Our program took a lot of pride in ‘Making History’ in 2007 during our first transitional year and this schedule provides us with a tremendous opportunity to ‘Make More History’ in 2008,” Hilltopper head coach David Elson added. “I would like to thank Dr. Selig for his time and effort in putting this schedule together, we have invested a tremendous amount of time working through countless scenarios to where our program will benefit both in the short term and long term from the positive ramifications of this schedule.
“We believe that with great challenge comes great opportunity.”
Six of the 12 teams on the 2008 schedule participated in a bowl game last season, with another advancing to the NCAA Division I-AA (Football Championship Subdivision) playoffs. Three of those schools won their conference title, while eight of next fall’s opponents posted a winning record (Middle Tennessee was able to accomplish the feat in league action).
The Hilltoppers will begin the year with a three-game road trip, as they are slated to take on Eastern Kentucky (Sept. 6) in the last of a six-game contract in between the contests at IU and Alabama. WKU will play host to Murray State Sept. 20 in the first-ever contest at a renovated Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium.
After visiting the Wildcats and Hokies, the Toppers begin a season-long three-game homestand with an Oct. 11 game against Ball State. Florida Atlantic will visit Houchens Industries-Smith Stadium on Oct. 18, and after a week off they will play host to North Texas on Homecoming Weekend (Nov. 1).
WKU will travel to Troy on Nov. 8, then close out the home schedule with a Nov. 15 date against rival Middle Tennessee.
Last year, the Hilltoppers won one of three games against Sun Belt schools after defeating the Blue Raiders on the road 20-17, with the other two contests against Troy and North Texas decided by four points or less.
After two open weekends, WKU will conclude the season at Florida International Dec. 6. It will be the third time in the last five years that it will wrap up the regular season with a game against the Golden Panthers in Miami.
“There is no question that this is the most exciting home schedule in the history of our program, especially as we open up a newly renovated Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium. At the same time, it is a great road schedule geographically for our fans and families,” stated Elson. “The exposure both in the Commonwealth and nationally that this schedule provides our program is priceless and something we are looking forward to.”
WKU was 7-5 in its first year transitioning to the NCAA I-A/FBS level, the school’s 12th consecutive winning season overall.
“Based on our success and experience from the 2007 season, along with knowing the type of coaching staff and players that we have in our program, I am confident we will be able to continue our winning tradition with this, the most challenging schedule in the history of WKU Football,” Elson said.
Upon the completion of the renovations to Houchens Industries-Smith Stadium in the late spring, the Hilltopper Athletic Foundation will begin a re-seating process for all WKU football season ticket holders. Approximately 5,000 new seats that will be available on the newly constructed West side of the stadium. WKU fans will have the opportunity to select their game day location in advance of the Toppers become a full-fledged FBS/I-A member in 2009.
“This will allow football fans a rare chance to literally select their seat location from every seat in the stadium, and gain control of that location for their future enjoyment,” Selig added. “You would almost have to start a program from scratch to have such an opportunity. This is a great time to get on board now and control your seat location for the future.”