Battle for the Red Belt
First contestedOctober 24, 1931
Western Kentucky 7, Murray State 0
Number of meetings67
Most recent meetingSeptember 20, 2008
Western Kentucky 50, Murray State 9
Next meetingTBD
All-time seriesWestern Kentucky leads, 36–24–7
Largest victoryWestern Kentucky 50, Murray State 0 (1963)
Longest win streakWestern Kentucky, 5 (1969–1973)
Current streakWestern Kentucky, 4 (1999–present)

The Battle for the Red Belt is an American college football rivalry between the WKU Hilltoppers football team of Western Kentucky University and the Murray State Racers football team of Murray State University. The rivalry began as an in-conference rivalry within the Ohio Valley Conference, but the Hilltoppers have since moved to the Football Bowl Subdivision, first to the Sun Belt Conference and most recently to Conference USA. The rivalry has continued as a trophy game, although it is no longer played on an annual basis.


The football rivalry between the Hilltoppers and the Racers dates to 1931. Western Kentucky secured a victory in the first game on October 24, 1931. In 1939, both institutions strengthened the rivalry by scheduling the match up as the final game of their regular seasons. This tradition continued, with only four interruptions, for the next 46 years.

Prior to the 1955 football game, a group of Western Kentucky students traveled to Murray and stole a banner commemorating Murray State's participation in the 1949 Tangerine Bowl. In response, a group of Murray State students traveled to Bowling Green with buckets of paint and plans to paint the Western Kentucky water tower that overlooked the football stadium. The plan was stopped when the Murray State students were forced off the water tower by a group Western Kentucky students with an ROTC training rifle. A "W" was shaved into the hair of three of the Murray State students, and their photo appeared in the local newspaper along with a photo of the Western Kentucky students displaying their stolen Murray State Tangerine Bowl banner. Murray State won the 1955 game 28–12, and the Tangerine Bowl banner was returned to Murray State. Following the Racer victory, a similar banner was stolen from Western Kentucky's W Club room. Over the next decade, the water tower and statue of Henry Hardin Cherry remained targets of Murray State students any time the schools met in both football and basketball. In another incident, the phrase "Murray OVC Champs" was painted on an overpass near the Western Kentucky campus.[1]

The football rivalry was cemented as an annual trophy game in 1978 known as the Battle for the Red Belt. The Red Belt originated in 1978 when WKU athletic trainer Bill Edwards attended a district trainers' meeting in Atlanta with Murray State trainer Tom Simmons. Simmons forgot to bring a belt, and borrowed a red one from Edwards. After the meeting, Edwards asked for the return of his belt, but Simmons responded that WKU would have to battle Murray State in football to get it back. Simmons had the belt mounted on a large plaque with brass plates to record the annual game scores of the annual rivalry game. The annual meetings between the two teams ended in 2000, but the Battle for the Red Belt is still played on in intermittent basis. The last game was played in 2008 when a record crowd of 22,297 in Bowling Green watched the Hilltoppers beat the Racers 50–9 and maintain possession of the Red Belt. The Racers and Hilltoppers have met 67 times in football, with Western Kentucky leading the series 36–24–7.[2][3][4]

Series HistoryEdit

Murray State victoriesWestern Kentucky victoriesTie games
1 1931 Bowling Green Western Kentucky7–0
2 1932 Murray Western Kentucky 6–0
3 1933 Bowling Green Murray State 20–6
4 1934 Murray Murray State 27–14
5 1935 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 21–6
6 1936 Murray Western Kentucky 14–0
7 1937 Bowling Green Tie7–7
8 1938 Murray Western Kentucky 21–7
9 1939 Bowling Green Tie12–12
10 1940 Murray Western Kentucky 6–0
11 1941 Bowling Green Tie0–0
12 1942 Murray Western Kentucky 24–13
13 1946 Bowling Green Murray State 55–6
14 1947 Murray Murray State 21–0
15 1948 Bowling Green Murray State 34–7
16 1949 Murray Western Kentucky 10–7
17 1950 Bowling Green Tie27–27
18 1951 Murray Murray State 23–6
19 1952 Murray Western Kentucky 12–7
20 1953 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 12–7
21 1954 Murray Murray State 19–0
22 1955 Bowling Green Murray State 28–12
23 1956 Murray Murray State 34–13
24 1957 Bowling Green Tie7–7
25 1958 Murray Murray State 12–7
26 1959 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 21–6
27 1960 Murray Murray State 26–7
28 1961 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 14–6
29 1962 Murray Western Kentucky 16–15
30 1963 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 50–0
31 1964 Murray Murray State 14–7
32 1965 Bowling Green Tie14–14
33 1966 Murray Western Kentucky 37–20
34 1967 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 42–19
35 1968 Murray Murray State 17–14
36 1969 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 59–14
37 1970 Murray Western Kentucky 33–7
38 1971 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 24–10
39 1972 Murray Western Kentucky 17–6
40 1973 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 32–27
41 1974 Murray Murray State 9–7
42 1975 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 19–0
43 1976 Murray Murray State 16–6
44 1977 Bowling Green Murray State 21–13
45 1978 Murray Western Kentucky 14–6
46 1979 Bowling Green Murray State 30–20
47 1980 Murray Murray State 49–0
48 1981 Bowling Green Murray State 38–6
49 1982 Murray Western Kentucky 27–20
50 1983 Bowling Green Murray State 7–3
51 1984 Murray Murray State 17–16
52 1985 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 27–25
53 1986 Murray Tie10–10
54 1987 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 21–17
55 1989 Murray Murray State 17–14
56 1991 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 14–0
57 1992 Murray Western Kentucky 47–15
58 1993 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 44–14
59 1994 Murray Western Kentucky 39–13
60 1995 Bowling Green Murray State 35–14
61 1996 Murray Western Kentucky 44–41
62 1997 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 52–50
63 1998 Murray Murray State 36–31
64 1999 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 21–15
65 2000 Murray Western Kentucky 48–38
66 2002 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 59–20
67 2008 Bowling Green Western Kentucky 50–9
Series: Western Kentucky leads 36–24–7

Notable gamesEdit


The 2000 game was final meeting between the Hilltoppers and Racers as both members of the Ohio Valley Conference. Keith Brooks rushed for a career-best 186 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, and DeWayne Gallishaw moved the ball for 118 yards on the ground to lead 24th-ranked Western Kentucky to a 48–38 OVC victory at Roy Stewart Stadium. Following the 2000 season, the Hilltoppers left the OVC as a result of a new OVC rule that required all eligible sports to participate in the conference. WKU was a football-only member of the OVC, and the university was not willing to move its other athletic programs back to the conference. Following the announcement, the head football coaches from both programs expressed the strong desire to keep the rivalry game on the schedule as an annual non-conference event.


In 2002, WKU and Murray State met in the first round of the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs. The Hilltoppers beat the Racers 59–20 in front of 3,300 fans at L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green. This was the first meeting between the two programs since WKU left the OVC to move to the Gateway Football Conference. The Hilltoppers went on to win their only NCAA Division I-AA National Championship.

See also Edit


Template:WKU Hilltoppers football navbox Template:Conference USA football rivalry navbox Template:Ohio Valley Conference football rivalry navbox

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