Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky today announced that the University of North Texas has been extended and accepted an invitation for Conference USA membership, effective July 1, 2013. North Texas is one of five schools that will be joining Conference USA, along with the University of Texas-San Antonio, Louisiana Tech University, Florida International University and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
"This is validation that the progress we have made in our athletic programs in conjunction with our university's academic reputation has made us a suitable fit for the high standards of Conference USA," Director of Athletics Rick Villarreal says. “Conference USA provides a great partnership with several schools in our geographic proximity and will help all of us create outstanding regional rivalries. It is a tremendous opportunity for North Texas athletics."
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 are 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.
The 13 members will also allow the Conference to continue to host its annual Football Championship game pitting champions from the East and West Divisions.
"The presidents and chancellors of Conference USA universities are pleased to welcome these five distinguished institutions to C-USA," says 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."
UNT will be joining Conference USA after competing as a member of the Sun Belt Conference since 2001. In 11 years as a Sun Belt member, North Texas won 20 conference championships in 10 different sports. The Mean Green represented the Sun Belt in four bowl games and two NCAA men’s basketball tournament appearances.
The new conference affiliation means UNT will be in a league with three other schools in the state of Texas and three more schools in bordering states. In all, seven members of the new Conference USA will be within 650 miles of Denton. Only three of the football-playing members in the Sun Belt Conference are within 650 miles of Denton
"The welfare of our student-athletes was definitely a key consideration for us in making this decision," Villarreal says. "With so many schools in relative close proximity to our campus we will minimize the amount of missed class time and minimize the amount of time spent traveling to and from competition."
Conference USA will be the eighth conference that UNT has been a member of since the inception of its athletics program in 1913.