IRVING, Texas – University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte), Florida International University (FIU), Louisiana Tech University, University of North Texas and University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) have finalized comprehensive membership agreements with Conference USA, Commissioner Britton Banowsky announced today.
"We are excited about adding these new members as part of our bold strategy that focuses on growing institutions in large media markets," Banowsky said. "There is a tremendous upside here. This is an opportunity for us to add a mixture of established and emerging programs. We also remain committed to divisional scheduling models that are student‐athlete and fan‐friendly. The more we analyzed it, the more it made sense."
Each new member will join the league in all sports for 2013, Charlotte will begin conference participation in football in 2015. The metro area population of these schools is nearly 18 million. Existing members include East Carolina University, Marshall University, Rice University, University of Southern Mississippi, Tulane University, The University of Tulsa, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and University of Texas El Paso (UTEP). Divisions will be set in the near future and the Conference intends to continue hosting its Football Championship game.
Conference USA and the Mountain West will continue to discuss a future affiliation that could begin as early as 2013. Both Conferences agreed that adding membership at this time was important and have carefully coordinated new membership plans. Additional expansion remains a possibility.
“The discussions with the Mountain West are ongoing,” Banowsky added. “What form the relationship will take is still to be determined, but both remain committed to working together.”
"The Presidents and Chancellors of Conference USA universities are pleased to welcome these five distinguished institutions to C‐USA," said Dr. Scott Cowen, Tulane University president and Chair of Conference USA's Board of Directors. "Conference USA has always operated in a way that reflects the values of higher education and works very hard to balance the athletics and academic interests of its student‐athletes at the highest level. These institutions clearly share those values."
Here is a quick look at the five new members of Conference USA:
- Charlotte has an enrollment of 25,063 and sponsors 16 sports, with football beginning competition in 2013. In 2015, the team will play a full conference schedule in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The 49ers are making a return to C‐USA, where they were members from 1995‐2005. During that time, Charlotte went to eight NCAA Tournaments in men’s basketball, winning the C‐USA Championship in 1999 and 2001. Charlotte is the No. 25 media market, reaching more than 1.1 million households.
- Florida International has an enrollment of 48,000 and sponsors 18 sports. It is one of the fastest growing universities in the United States. The football team has been to bowl games the past two seasons, including a win in the 2010 Little Ceasars Pizza Bowl. The men’s soccer team has been an affiliate member of C‐USA since 2005. FIU is located in Miami and the No. 16 media market.
- Louisiana Tech has an enrollment of 11,743 and sponsors 16 sports. In 2011, the Bulldog football team won the WAC Championship and participated in the Poinsettia Bowl. The women’s basketball program has participated in 27 NCAA Tournaments, including 25 straight, advancing to 13 Final Fours, playing in eight national championship games and winning three national titles.
- North Texas has an enrollment of 36,305 and sponsors 16 sports. Since 2003, North Texas has developed more than 12 new athletics facilities as part of a 200‐acre Mean Green Village. Competition venues, training facilities and meeting space have been upgraded for all 16 sports since then, including the crown jewel ‐ brand new $78 million state‐of‐the‐art Apogee Stadium that opened in 2011. UNT has approximately 336,000 living alumni, with 216,000 living in the Dallas‐Fort Worth area – the No. 5 media market in the nation.
- UTSA is a rapidly growing university and has an enrollment of 30,968 and sponsors 17 sports. In their first season of football in 2011, the Roadrunners averaged 35,521 for their games at the Alamodome. UTSA is the only NCAA Division I Program in San Antonio, a market that reaches more than 880,000 television households.