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WKU Hilltoppers and Lady Toppers

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Title: WKU Hilltoppers and Lady Toppers  
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Subject: Conference USA, Claire Donahue, Kentucky Valkyries, Sun Belt Conference, WKU Hilltoppers and Lady Toppers
Collection: College Sports in Kentucky, Wku Hilltoppers and Lady Toppers
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WKU Hilltoppers and Lady Toppers

WKU Hilltoppers
University Western Kentucky University
Conference Conference USA
NCAA FBS (Formerly Division I-A)
Athletic director Todd Stewart
Location Bowling Green, KY
Varsity teams 17
Football stadium Houchens Industries -
L. T. Smith Stadium
Basketball arena E. A. Diddle Arena
Baseball stadium Nick Denes Field
Mascot Big Red
Nickname Hilltoppers and Lady Toppers
Fight song Stand Up and Cheer
     Red       White
Website .com.wkusportswww

The WKU Hilltoppers and Lady Toppers are the athletic teams that represent Western Kentucky University (WKU). The men's teams uses the name Hilltoppers; however, the women's teams use the name Lady Toppers. The university's athletic program fields 17 varsity teams in 11 different sports. WKU participates in the Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and competes as a member of Conference USA.

On March 12, 2010, Ross Bjork, who was the senior associate athletic director for Development and External Relations for the UCLA Bruins, replaced Dr. Wood Selig, as WKU's athletic director.[1] But in March 2012, Bjork accepted the job as Athletic Director at Ole Miss.[2] Todd Stewart, who had served as Senior Associate Athletic Director since 2010, was named interim athletic director until May when he was officially named athletic director.[3]

On April 1, 2013, it was announced Western Kentucky would depart the Sun Belt Conference for Conference USA, effective July 1, 2014.[4]


  • Teams 1
    • Basketball 1.1
    • Football 1.2
    • Baseball 1.3
    • Men's golf 1.4
  • Culture 2
    • Rivalries 2.1
    • The Red Towel 2.2
  • References 3


A member of Conference USA, Western Kentucky sponsors teams in seven men's and nine women's NCAA sanctioned sports:[5]
  • NOTE: On April 14, 2015, WKU announced that it would suspend its men's and women's swimming and diving teams for at least 5 years, effective immediately. This followed a police investigation into claims of assault and hazing by a former men's team member which in turn found multiple violations of university policies on harassment and sexual misconduct. [6]


The Hilltoppers basketball program is nationally recognized, and reached the Final Four in 1971. Ray Harper is the current head coach of the Hilltoppers after Ken McDonald was fired in January 2012.[7] The program is 8th-winningest program in NCAA history. The program has over 1,600 victories, forty 20-win seasons, 34 Postseason Tournament Appearances and 28 All-Americans.

During the 1990s, Lady Toppers basketball had a higher national profile than the men's program. In recent years, the Lady Toppers and Hilltoppers have had roughly equal success; under head coach Mary Taylor Cowles, the Lady Toppers won the Sun Belt Conference's regular season title four times in the last six years, advancing to the NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Championship tournament in 2003 and 2008.


WKU football was a member of the Gateway Conference through the 2006 football season and then began its 2-year transition into becoming a full Division I FBS (formerly Division I-A) member. As a member of Division I-AA, now Division I FCS, the Hilltoppers won a Division 1-AA Football Championship in 2002.[8] In 2008, the Hilltoppers were among the Division I-A Independents, along with the Army Black Knights, Navy Midshipmen and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. In 2009, the Hilltoppers completed the transition and joined the Sun Belt Conference. In 2012, the Hilltoppers clinched the Sun Belt championship and their first ever bowl trip, but lost to Central Michigan in the Little Caesars' Pizza Bowl.

The current head coach is Jeff Brohm, who was elevated from offensive coordinator to head coach following Bobby Petrino's departure after the 2013 season for his second stint as head coach at Louisville.[9]


WKU baseball competes at Nick Denes Field. The team won the Sun Belt Conference championship in 2009, their first title. With the help of Matt Rice behind the plate as an All American Catcher.

Men's golf

The men's golf team has won 10 conference championships:[10]



WKU holds a long-standing rivalry with Cross-state Eastern Kentucky University. Up until 2008, the two schools' football teams competed annually in the "Battle of the Bluegrass", with WKU leading the all-time series 47-34-3.

The rivalry with Middle Tennessee has become one of the most heated and most competitive in the Sun Belt, with each team fielding championship contending teams each year. The rivalry has grown in recent years due to the football teams' move into the FBS.

The Red Towel

The red towel is famous at WKU. The origins of the towel come from Hilltopper basketball head coach Edgar Diddle after getting upset that the team's towels were being stolen. He decided that all of the teams towels were to be red. After the red towels were made, Diddle threw them to the rafters, beat them on the floor, chewed on them, waved, twisted, and even cried into them.

George Barker from the Nashville Tennessean described these various actions and interpreted their meanings as such:
Action Meaning
Tossed in the air Pure climatic joy
Whirled overhead Satisfaction and high expectation
Slapped violently on the floor Extreme disappointment with players or referee
Twisted or braided Outcome doubtful
Chewed Outcome very doubtful
Used to shield the eyes Horror or Shakesperian-like dismay
Rubbed on groin Pure disgust


  1. ^ Jon Gold, Ross Bjork named Western Kentucky University A.D., Los Angeles Daily News, March 12, 2010
  2. ^ WKU Herald, [Walking Away: Bjork introduced as Ole Miss AD], "WKU Herald," March 22, 2012
  3. ^ WKU Herald, [Stewart named AD, will be announced Thursday], "WKU Herald," May 9, 2012
  4. ^ ESPN [1], "ESPN," March 30, 2013
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
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