Western Kentucky University enters its first-ever season as a bowl and conference championship eligible member of the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision (I-A) with a schedule featuring six opponents who were bowl eligible in 2008 and eight matchups with Sun Belt Conference foes, WKU director of athletics Dr. Camden “Wood” Selig announced Friday. One of only 120 FBS members, the Hilltoppers’ balanced schedule includes six home and away games along with open dates on October 3 and November 21.
“We have a challenging and exciting schedule for this historic 2009 season,” Selig said. “With three of our first four games against teams from the SEC, Big East and the Naval Academy, we will certainly be tested in September. While this will be WKU’s 91st season of football, there is an unprecedented level of enthusiasm surrounding the first season in which we are eligible to win an FBS conference title and earn a bowl berth. Head Coach David Elson, his staff, and our student-athletes have sacrificed and worked diligently during the last two seasons transitioning to this point. With our first-class football facility now fully functional, it is truly an exhilarating time to be a Hilltopper.”
“I really like our schedule,” head coach David Elson said. “It is great to open the season with our four non-conference games followed by a full conference schedule, and the balance of six home and away games is how we want it to be. Our non-conference schedule is a lot closer to what we want it to be every year. We open with a perennial power in Tennessee on the road, get a quality 1-A in South Florida to come here, have a home I-AA game and then travel to play a 1-A that is not in one of the main six BCS conferences.”
WKU’s September 12 home opener against Big East member South Florida marks the first time in program history WKU will host a current member of one of the top six Bowl Championship Series conferences. The game will mark the first on WKU’s newly installed FieldTurf Duraspine playing surface. South Florida defeated Memphis 41-14 in last season’s St. Petersburg Bowl, marking their fourth consecutive bowl appearance.
WKU opens the 2009 season in Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium on September 5, the fourth-largest on campus stadium in the country with a capacity of 102,038. The Vols rank third in NCAA history in bowl appearances (47), fourth in bowl wins (25), ninth in victories (776) and have 22 former players or coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame.
WKU travels to Annapolis, Maryland, for the program’s first-ever meeting with the Naval Academy on September 26. The Midshipmen, who have been to a bowl game following each of the last six seasons, are scheduled to play WKU in Houchens Industries – L.T. Smith Stadium in both 2011 and 2013.
WKU will also play a full slate of games against the other eight football members of the Sun Belt Conference with the league champion receiving an automatic berth to the annual R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. Defending conference champion Troy has been to a bowl game in three of the last five seasons, while Florida Atlantic has posted post-season bowl victories in each of the last two seasons. The Hilltoppers play at Middle Tennessee on October 24. The Blue Raiders lead the series 30-28-1, and the 59 all-time meetings are more than any other opponent in 2009. Home opponents Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette were each bowl eligible in 2008.
The Hilltoppers continue 2009 spring practice with a 1:15 p.m. scrimmage on Saturday at Houchens Industries – L.T. Smith Stadium. WKU completed its fourth spring practice on Friday morning. “I feel good overall, and our guys are eager to learn,” Elson said. “We have a lot of things to iron out. We have some guys making plays, but we are also making mental mistakes. We need to get as many plays as possible in the Saturday scrimmage and then evaluate everything on film.”
2009 WKU FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
September 5 - at Tennessee
September 12 - SOUTH FLORIDA
September 19 - CENTRAL ARKANSAS
September 26 - at Navy
October 3 - Open Date
October 10 - FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL
October 17 - LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE
October 24 - at Middle Tennessee
October 31 - at North Texas
November 7 - TROY
November 14 - at Louisiana-Monroe
November 21 - Open Date
November 28 - at Florida Atlantic
December 3 - ARKANSAS STATE
December - TBA - R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
*Game times, special events and television details will be announced later.