WKU Hilltoppers football
First season 1908
Head coach Bobby Petrino
Home stadium Houchens Industries – L. T. Smith Stadium
Stadium capacity 22,000
Stadium surface FieldTurf
Location Bowling Green, Kentucky
League NCAA Division I (FBS)
Conference Sun Belt
All-time record 511–349–30
Postseason bowl record 2–1
Claimed national titles 1 (FCS)
Conference titles 11 (7 Division II, 4 FCS)
Heisman winners 0
Consensus All-Americans 0
Colors Red and White            
Fight song Stand Up and Cheer!
Mascot Big Red
Marching band Big Red Marching Band
Rival Middle Tennessee
Website WKU Official Athletic Site

The WKU Hilltoppers football program is a college football team that represents Western Kentucky University (WKU). The team is currently a member of the Sun Belt Conference, which is a Division I Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The program has 1 national championship (FCS/I-AA), 11 conference championships (1 SIAA, 9 OVC and 1 Gateway) and 5 Consensus All-Americans. The team is currently coached by Bobby Petrino. The Hilltoppers play their home games at Houchens Industries – L. T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Kentucky.[1]

Recent historyEdit

In 2007, led by then-head coach David Elson, WKU's football program began the transition from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivision. As part of the transition, they played defending national champion Florida.

In 2008, WKU began play as a Division I FBS football team. Although they were ineligible for a bowl game, they played in a newly expanded L.T. Smith Stadium. Teams played included #11 Alabama, #20 VA Tech, #25 Ball State, Indiana and UK.

In 2009, WKU began play as a new, full FBS member and a new member of the Sun Belt Conference. In non-conference road games, the team faced BCS programs Tennessee and South Florida.

In 2010, the Hilltoppers hired new head coach Willie Taggart, who came from coaching Toby Gerhart as Running Backs coach at Stanford.

In 2012, the Hilltoppers were bowl eligible for the second consecutive season, and were selected to play in the Little Ceasars Pizza Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit on December 26, 2012.

On December 8, 2012, Taggart accepted the head coaching job at South Florida. WKU Defensive Coordinator Lance Guidry was named interim head coach for the Little Ceasars Pizza Bowl.[2] Guidry is 1-0 in bowl games, also serving as interim head coach at Miami (Ohio) for the 2011 Bowl. The RedHawks defeated MTSU 35-21.[3]

On December 10, 2012, Bobby Petrino was formally announced as WKU's head football coach.[4]

On December 26, 2012, The Guidry-led Hilltoppers fell to Central Michigan in the Little Caesers Pizza Bowl 24-21.[5] Running back Antonio Andrews surpassed Bobby Rainey as the all-time season rushing yards leader in WKU history.[6] Andrews also fell short of breaking Barry Sanders all-purpose yeardage in a season record.[7]

All-time Sun Belt recordsEdit

Statistics correct as of the end of the 2011-12 college football season

This table includes all Sun Belt games from 2009, the year the Hilltoppers joined the Sun Belt Conference. It includes only games that were Sun Belt conference games, and does not include postseason games.

OpponentGamesWinLossPct.PFPAFirst MeetingLast MeetingStreakMost recent win
Arkansas State 422.50010498200920121 win2012, 26-13
Florida Atlantic 312.3335946200920111 win2011, 20-0
Florida International 312.3335174200920111 win2011, 10-9
Louisiana–Lafayette 321.66711874200920112 win2011, 42-23
Louisiana–Monroe 312.3338084200920111 win2011, 31-28 (OT)
Middle Tennessee 3 12.33386122200920111 win2011, 36-33 (2OT)
North Texas312.33386122200920111 win2011, 31-21
South Alabama 0 00.00000----
Troy 422.500106112200920122 win2012, 31-26
Totals 24 9 15 .375 633 693

NCAA affiliationsEdit

1910-1937: Member
1937-1973: Member, NCAA College Division
1973-1978: Member, NCAA Division II
1978-2008: Member, NCAA Division I - Football Championship Subdivision
2008–present: Member, NCAA Division I - Football Bowl Subdivision

Conference affiliationsEdit

1913-1926: NCAA Independent
1927-1942: Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association
1942-1945: NCAA College Division Independent
1946-1947: Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
1948-1981: Ohio Valley Conference
1982-1998: Football Championship Subdivision Independent
1999-2000: Ohio Valley Conference
2001-2006: Gateway Football Conference
2007: Football Championship Subdivision Independent
2008: Football Bowl Subdivision Independent
2009–present: Sun Belt Conference

National championshipsEdit

Year Selector Coach Record
2002 NCAA Division I-AA Jack Harbaugh 12-3-0

Conference championshipsEdit

Year Conference Record
1932 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association 7-1-0
1952 Ohio Valley Conference 9-1-0 (co-champions)
1963 Ohio Valley Conference 10-0-1
1970 Ohio Valley Conference 8-1-1
1971 Ohio Valley Conference 8-2-0
1973 Ohio Valley Conference 12-1-0
1975 Ohio Valley Conference 11-2-0 (co-champions)
1978 Ohio Valley Conference 8-2-0
1980 Ohio Valley Conference 9-1-0
2000 Ohio Valley Conference 11-2
2002 Gateway Football Conference 12-3 (co-champions)

Bowl GamesEdit

WKU competed in two "College Division" bowl games prior to the NCAA instituting playoffs for lower division teams in 1973. In 2009 WKU completed its transition from Division I-AA/FCS to Division I-A/FBS. All bowl games since then were at the NCAA Division I FBS level.

Season Date Coach Bowl Result Opponent
1952 December 7 Jack Clayton Refrigerator Bowl W 34–19 Arkansas State
1963 December 28 Nick Denes Tangerine Bowl W 27–0 Coast Guard
2012 December 26 Lance Guidry Little Caesars Pizza Bowl L 21–24 Central Michigan

NCAA Playoff AppearancesEdit

The NCAA began Division II National Football Championship in 1973. WKU made NCAA Division II playoff appearances in 1973 and 1975. NCAA Division I-AA was formed for football in 1978, and WKU moved up from Division II to Division 1-AA at that time, and all playoff appearances since then were at the Division 1-AA level. In 2006 the name of Division 1-AA was changed to NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). In 2007, WKU initiated the transition to NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and became ineligible for any further playoff appearances.

Year Record Coach Results
1973 12-1Jimmy FeixLehigh W 25-16; Grambling W 28-20; Louisiana Tech L 0-34 (NCAA Runners-up)
1975 11-2Jimmy FeixN. Iowa W 14-12; New Hampshire W 14- 3; N. Michigan L 14-16 (NCAA Runners-up)
1987 7-4Dave RobertsEastern Kentucky L 17-40
1988 9-4Dave RobertsWestern Illinois W 35-32; Eastern Kentucky L 24-41
1997 10-2Jack HarbaughEastern Kentucky W 42-14; Eastern Washington L 21-38
2000 11-2Jack HarbaughFlorida A&M W 27-0; Appalachian State L 14-17
2001 8-4Jack HarbaughFurman L 20-24
2002 12-3Jack HarbaughMurray St W 59-20; W. Illinois W 31-28; GA Southern W 31-28; McNeese St W 34-14 (NCAA Champions)
2003 9-4David ElsonJacksonville State W 45-7; Wofford L 17-34
2004 9-3David ElsonSam Houston State L 24-54

Hilltoppers in the pollsEdit

From 1978 until 2007, WKU competed in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, and as such was eligible for the post-season FCS coaches poll and the Sports Network poll, started in 1993. They have appeared in the final rankings 12 seasons.

Year Record Coaches Sports Network
1978 8-2-0 5
1980 9-1-0 5
1987 7-4-0 11
1988 9-4-0 16
1993 8-3-0 NR 19
1997 10-2 7 5
1998 7-4 22 17
2000 11-2 7 5
2001 8-4 10 12
2002 12-3 1 1
2003 9-4 8 7
2004 9-3 11 11

Notable Hilltoppers in the NFLEdit

RB Bobby Rainey - Baltimore (2012–present)

Carl Brazley - former DB for San Diego (1987).
David Carter - former C for Houston (1977–1983) and New Orleans (1984–1985).
Darryl Drake - former WR for Washington (1979) and Cincinnati (1983).
Curtis Hamilton - former Wr for Chicago (2008), New Orleans (2009)
Clarence "Jazz" Jackson, Jr. - former RB for New York Jets (1974–1976).
Joseph Jefferson - former CB for Indianapolis (2002–2005).
Jeremi Johnson - former FB for Cincinnati (2003-2009) Free Agent (2009-present)
Dale Lindsey - former LB for Cleveland (1965–1972) and New Orleans (1973).
Virgil Livers - former DB for Chicago (1975–1979).
Anthony Oakley - former G for Cleveland (2004) and Chicago (2005–2007)
Rod Smart AKA "He Hate Me" - Former RB for San Diego (2000), Philadelphia (2001), Carolina (2002–2005) and Oakland (2006).

A total of 26 Hilltoppers have been drafted in the NFL.

Notable Hilltopper playersEdit

Romeo Crennel - Former Head Coach of the Kansas City Chiefs
Joe Bugel - Former Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders
Willie Taggart - Current University South Florida Bulls Head Coach, former WKU Head Coach from 2010-2012, and played QB from 1995-1998
Jimmy Feix - Former WKU Hilltoppers Head Coach, 1952 Little All-American Quarterback
Eagle "Buddy" Keys - Former Head Coach in the CFL, Grey Cup Champion, member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame
KC Armstrong - Former associate producer of The Howard Stern Show
Chris Baker - Legendary Florida high school football coach

Notable Hilltopper coachesEdit

Head Coaches
L.T. Smith (1920–1921, Head Coach) - Namesake of L.T. Smith Stadium
E.A. Diddle (1922–1928, Head Coach) - Former WKU Hilltoppers basketball Head Coach
Jimmy Feix (1968–1983, Head Coach; 1957-1967, Assistant Coach; 1986-1991, Athletic Director) - Winningest coach in WKU history; 1973, 1978, and 1980 Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year; 1973 and 1975 NCAA Division II National Runners-up
Jack Harbaugh (1989–2002, Head Coach) - Former Head Coach at Western Michigan, 2000 Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year, 2002 AFCA Coach of the Year (FCS), 2002 FCS National Champion
Bobby Petrino (2013–Present)

Jerry Glanville (1967, DC) - Former Head Coach of the Houston Oilers and the Atlanta Falcons
Jim Harbaugh (1994–2001, Assistant Coach) - Current NFL Head Coach for the San Francisco 49ers, was an unpaid assistant under his father while playing in the NFL
Don Martindale - (2001–03, LB Coach, Defensive Coordinator) Linebackers coach for the Baltimore Ravens Tommy Prothro (1942, Assistant Coach) - Former Head Coach at Oregon State and UCLA, Former Head Coach of the Los Angeles Rams and the San Diego Chargers, member of the College Football Hall of Fame

Retired jerseysEdit

1 - Willie Taggart
24 - Virgil Livers
44 - Dale Lindsey
66 - Jimmy Feix

Individual award winnersEdit

Justin Haddix - 2003
Jack Harbaugh - 2002
Nick Denes - 1963
Jimmy Feix - 1973, 1978, 1980
Jack Harbaugh - 2000


WKU has fielded 64 All-Americans, with the first being named in 1952 and the last being named in 2005.

5 have been designated by the NCAA as "Consensus All-Americans" (selected by the AP, the Walter Camp Foundation and the AFCA). They are:

James Edwards (1987)
Bobby Sippio (2000)
Mel Mitchell (2001)
Chris Price (2002)
Buster Ashley (2004)

WKU's total of 5 Consensus All-Americans outpaces BCS programs Duke, Wake Forest, Iowa State and Oregon.

Middle Tennessee State RivalryEdit

WKU has a rivalry with fellow Sun-Belt team Middle Tennessee State that stems from their basketball rivalry.

Future non-conference opponents Edit

2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
vs Kentucky (in Nashville) vs Bowling Green at Indiana at Southern Miss vs Marshall at Hawaii
at Tennessee at Navy at Army at LSU at Marshall
vs Morgan State vs Army vs Army
vs Navy
at Army



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