MURRAY, Ky. - Murray State University's Board of Regents voted unanimously to accept an invitation into the Missouri Valley Conference on Friday.

The Racers will leave the Ohio Valley to become the MVC's 11th member, effective July 1, 2022. Murray State athletic director Kevin Saal said the move is a no-brainer.

“It is significant for us," said Saal. "When you look at it from an exposure perspective. When you look at it from a competitive perspective. When you look at it from access to postseason championships. We talked a little bit about it in the board presentation, that historically the Missouri Valley Conference performs at an elite level.”

However, Murray State's football and rifle teams will be the only exception to that move. The football team will remain in the OVC until 2023, at which point the Missouri Valley will vote to add the Racers to the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

The decision was designed to give the OVC time to add additional members. As for rifle, the program will stay in the OVC because the Missouri Valley doesn't offer the sport.

With the move, Murray State becomes the fifth team in the last year to leave the Ohio Valley Conference, joining Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State, Belmont and Austin Peay. Murray State will join rival Belmont in the conference.

Murray State President Bob Jackson described a myriad of contributing factors for the move. One of the biggest, he said, was the footprint of the Missouri Valley. The conference's footprint represents 91 percent of Murray State's student population. 

Jackson said the prospect of leaving the OVC began as other teams began their exodus over the last year. 

“Four programs exited the OVC," Jackson said. "Obviously, we had a responsibility to protect our athletic programs and the reputations they have, and the great assets they are to Murray State University. We’ve been looking at all the options for awhile, and without question, this is the best option for Murray State University and Racer Athletics.”

Jackson mentioned there is a buy-out totaling $1 million to leave the OVC. The school will host a community gathering on Monday, Jan. 7 to celebrate the news.