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The Western Kentucky 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 Football 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.
Western Kentucky first fielded a football team in 1908. The program's first coaches were M.A. Leiper and Roy Manchester. The Hilltoppers didn't compete in football from 1917-1919 because of World War I. L.T. Smith, whose name bears the Hilltoppers' home stadium, coached the team for two seasons from 1920-1921.
Better known for serving as Western Kentucky's iconic basketball coach, Edgar Diddle coached the Hilltoppers football team for seven seasons. The Hilltoppers had their first football successes under Diddle, who was a dual athlete himself and encouraged his players to do the same so they could stay in shape.
Carl Anderson served two stints as Western Kentucky's head football coach. Anderson posted a 31-12-3 record as the Hilltoppers head football coach.
Jimmy Feix is the most successful coach in Western Kentucky football history. He complied a 105-56-6 record in 16 seasons as head coach. He led the transition from NCAA Division II to NCAA Division I-AA (now FCS). His teams won six Ohio Valley Conference championships and two Division II runners-up in 1973 and 1975. Feix was also a six-time OVC Coach of the Year. His winning percentage (.6488) is also the highest among all coaches in Western Kentucky football history.
Dave Roberts took over the Hilltoppers football program after Feix's retirement. Roberts posted a 26-30-1 record in five seasons as head football coach. He left after the 1988 season to accept the head football coach position at Louisiana-Monroe.
Jack Harbaugh served as the Hilltoppers head football coach for 14 seasons, compiling a 91-68 record, one conference championship and the 2002 Division I-AA National Championship.
Coach David Elson led the Hilltoppers for six seasons, five of which were at the Division I-A level and the last being WKU's first season in Division I-A (now FBS) as members of the Sun Belt Conference. A dismal 0-12 record in 2009 led to Elson's firing.
Willie Taggart returned to his alma mater as head football coach from his position as Stanford running backs coach, where he served under Jack Harbaugh's son Jim Harbaugh. In Taggart's three seasons, the Hilltoppers went 2–10, then back to back 7–5 seasons that included an upset of Kentucky in Lexington in 2012. That was Western Kentucky's first win over an SEC opponent in program history. Despite the surprising 7–5 record in 2011, a season in which the Hilltoppers went 7–1 in their final eight games, they were not invited to a bowl game. In 2012, Taggart led WKU to its first bowl appearance as an FBS member, the 2012 Little Caesar's Bowl, a game they lost to Central Michigan. Taggart, a former running back himself, ran a run-heavy West Coast offense that helped develop leading rushers Bobby Rainey and Antonio Andrews. Taggart left after the 2012 season to accept the head football coach position at South Florida.
Former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino was hired as the new head football coach following Taggart's departure. In the news conference announcing Petrino's hiring in December 2012, athletic director Todd Stewart called the hiring a "landmark moment" in the history of WKU football. Petrino led the team to a second straight win over Kentucky in August 2013, his first game as the Hilltoppers head football coach. The Hilltoppers finished the 2013 regular season with an 8-4 record but were snubbed from a bowl appearance.