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Date Posted: 23:45:33 08/01/03 Fri
Author: Starter
Subject: Gateway/OVC agree to "Challenge Series"

Gateway Football Announces Conference Challenge Series

ST. LOUIS -- In a cooperative effort to highlight intersectional rivalries between member institutions of each league, the Gateway Football Conference and the Ohio Valley Conference will begin a Challenge Series in 2003, commissioner Patty Viverito has announced. A total of eight regular-season games between the two leagues constitute the challenge, with four of the games
featured on television.

“The NCAA has paired Gateway and Ohio Valley teams in the opening round of the Division I-AA playoffs the past two years giving added meaning to the rivalry between these two great leagues,” says Viverito. “Extending the challenge to our regularseason games will serve as an exciting preview to postseason match-ups which are likely to continue with the NCAA policy of regional pairings in first-round games.”

The eight meetings in 2003 will mark the most common non-conference opponent for either league. The winner of the series will earn regional bragging rights. Each team has four home games, and 11 different teams (of the 17 total combined members) are involved in the series.
The genesis for the challenge came about after the leagues agreed to co-produce two games on Fox Sports Net (FSN)
airwaves. The Sept. 6 game between Southern Illinois and Southeast Missouri State will be seen live on FSN Midwest and FSN Chicago at 6:30 p.m., while the Sept. 20 game between Illinois State and Eastern Illinois will be seen live on FSN Midwest and FSN Chicago at 1:30 p.m. Both games will also be carried live by Fox Sports Digital Nets. The Football Network (TFN) will televise the second game in the challenge (Sept. 13 at 6 p.m.) featuring Murray State and Southern Illinois. College Sports
Television (CSTV) has also announced plans to air a fourth Gateway-OVC game, featuring defending national champion Western Kentucky and instate rival Eastern Kentucky (Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.).

The Gateway Conference has had more success in the all-time series, as league teams own a 67-40-1 record against Ohio Valley Conference members, which includes a 5-4 advantage last year. In the playoffs in 2002, Western Illinois beat Eastern Illinois (48-9), while Western Kentucky downed Murray State (59-20).

Notably, the leagues have combined for four national championships, while current members own eight of the previous 25 national titles. OVC member Eastern Kentucky has two titles (1979, 1982), while Western Kentucky (2002) and Youngstown State (1997) own I-AA championships as Gateway members. Prior to Gateway membership, Southern Illinois (1983) and Youngstown State (1991, 1993, 1994) also claimed an additional four championships. EKU was a national runner-up as an Ohio Valley member in 1980 and 1981, while YSU has a second-place finish as a Gateway member, in 1999.

In addition, three institutions have been members in both leagues. Current Ohio Valley Conference member Eastern Illinois was a charter member of the Gateway Conference and was in the league for 11 seasons (1985-95). Youngstown State and Western Kentucky have spent seasons in the OVC before joining the Gateway Conference in 1997 and 2001, respectively.

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