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It's Official: Norse Move to Horizon League

As expected, the Northern Kentucky University Board of Regents unanimously approved the switch of athletic conferences from the Atlantic Sun to the Horizon League at a public meeting on campus on Monday morning.

NKU President Geoffrey S. Mearns announced that the Norse will join the Horizon League effective July 1.

“It's an important day, an historic day, for our school and in particular, for our athletics program,” Mearns said.

Beginning next season, NKU athletics will play a complete Horizon League schedule. Mearns said that thanks to the move, the school can now use athletics more effectively as a student recruitment tool. Mearns also said that the Norse men's basketball team will travel across the Ohio River this upcoming season to play at Xavier on November 23.

There are currently seven Horizon League schools that are within 300 miles of the NKU campus. Athletic Director Ken Bothof said that the school will save over $250,000 from their teams traveling less distance to play other Horizon League schools.

“As part of the Horizon League, we will reduce the amount of travel for our student-athletes, allowing them to spend more time in the classroom. The closer proximity also provides our fans with more opportunities to travel to see their Norse in action. Plus, the League's television deal with ESPN delivers great visibility for NKU Athletics,” Bothof said.

Horizon League Commissioner Jonathan LeCrone said that there will be 8-10 men's basketball games on Friday nights on ESPN U this upcoming season and the the men's basketball Horizon League Championship will also be aired on ESPN. There will be at least 10 more Horizon League games to be aired on the new American Sports Network. He also said that while NKU still has one more season in its transition to Division I and will not be eligible for the NCAA Tournament until the 2016-17 season, the Norse are eligible to compete in the Horizon League postseason next year.

The Norse competed in its first Atlantic Sun conference tournaments this season.

The Horizon League sponsors 19 sports, including all 17 in which NKU competes. A rich tradition of success in NCAA Championships also exists with the conference, including a 19-16 record and two national title game appearances in the men's basketball tournament over the past 13 years. Green Bay's women's basketball team reached the Sweet 16 in 2011 and advanced to the second round a year later. Success has also come in men's and women's soccer, softball, and track and field. There are over 2,000 student-athletes in the Horizon League.

“We will now be able to begin and also restore some geographic rivalries,” Bothof said.

Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor

Photo: NKU President Geoff Mearns announces athletics program's move to Horizon League (RCN)