Western Kentucky not anxious to leave C-USA for MAC, meaning Eastern Kentucky may be stuck in FCS

Dec 21, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;  Western Kentucky Hilltoppers mascot Big Red dances
Dec 21, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers mascot Big Red dances / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

With the Mid-American Conference adding UMass for the 2025-26 academic calendar, many, including The Lexington Herald Leader, soon linked Western Kentucky to a move from Conference USA to the MAC; with Eastern Kentucky potentially benefitting and becoming an FBS school themselves to replace WKU in C-USA.

As The Bowling Green Daily News's Joe Imel reported, though, Western Kentucky isn't all that anxious to leave C-USA given the moves the conference has made in recent years to be a viable brand across the U.S. South.

"The MAC consists of – in a much tighter geographical circle – Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami of Ohio, Northern Illinois, Ohio, Toledo and Western Michigan, plus incoming UMass," Imel prefaced before saying, "It needs one more for a target of 14. Naturally, WKU’s name is going to come up. There will be others.

"If an invitation is extended, WKU will listen with interest, but it’s not nearly as anxious for a new home as it was less than a handful of years ago. Arguments can be made to accept an invite, if it comes. It’s just not as likely a move today as it was before."

If WKU stays in its current conference, so will EKU. The Battle of the Bluegrass rivals' futures are intrinsically linked.

And Western Kentucky holds all the cards.

Western Kentucky going to the MAC not a step up from Conference USA anymore

The MAC hasn't had a school represent the conference in a New Year's Six bowl game since Western Michigan in 2016. Conference USA just saw Liberty go undefeated in the regular season and conference championship game and play in the Fiesta Bowl; even if the Flames ended up losing 45-6 to Oregon.

At this point, the MAC isn't a step up from C-USA. And as the arms race for talent in the NIL era inevitably leads to the Power Five schools hoarding all of the top talents in the regions they reside in, it'll be the southern Group of Five schools that will have a better chance at survival by convincing local kids to stay and represent their hometown teams.