Report says Conference USA ready to add five new teams in expansion
The Associated Press
DALLAS — Conference USA is restocking its league and is about to add more schools than it is losing to the Big East.
UT-San Antonio’s move to Conference USA was approved Thursday by University of Texas System regents, the same day that people familiar with the league’s plans said North Texas, Charlotte, Louisiana Tech and Florida International would also be joining C-USA. Announcements are expected at each of the schools Friday.
Those five additions in July 2013 will come at the same time Big East-bound Houston, SMU, Memphis and Central Florida are scheduled to leave Conference USA. That will give C-USA 13 schools, one above its current membership.
Multiple people with knowledge of the planned additions spoke Thursday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because, aside from the action by regents overseeing UTSA, no official announcements had been made by the league or the individual schools.
Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said North Texas and FIU have been up front about their desires to leave.
“They’ve done it in a very professional manner,” he said in a phone interview Thursday night. .
The Sun Belt recently added Texas State and Georgia State as football members starting in 2013 in anticipation of losing two schools.
“We’ve been able to minimize any damage,” Benson said.
There could be even more additions in the future to the incoming five and the eight remaining Conference USA schools: Southern Miss, Marshall, East Carolina, Tulane, Tulsa, Rice, UTEP and UAB.
Those schools, along with the schools remaining and heading to the Mountain West Conference announced plans earlier this year to form a new conference, with as many as 24 teams located in five time zones. The two leagues are still working through details of such a move that had been planned to begin in 2013.
North Texas scheduled a news conference Friday about the “future of Mean Green athletics.”
The news conference with school President V. Lane Rawlins and athletic director Rick Villarreal will be held at the school’s $78 million, 30,850-seat campus football stadium that opened last season.
Charlotte is rejoining Conference USA, where it was a member from 1995-2005. The 49ers left C-USA for the Atlantic 10 because they didn’t have a football team then.
But Charlotte is building a new campus stadium and will begin playing football in 2013 as an FCS independent. Providing it can meet NCAA attendance standards, it will be allowed to move up to the FBS and become part of C-USA football in 2015-16. The 49ers football program is still in the start-up phase. It will practice this fall with their incoming freshman class — all to be redshirted — but not begin play until 2013.
The North Carolina school has scheduled a press conference Friday to discuss conference affiliation.’ Among those scheduled to attend are 49ers football coach Brad Lambert, chancellor Phil Dubois and athletic director Judy Rose.
UTSA went 4-6 in its inaugural football season under Larry Coker as an independent in FCS last year, but the program has sought to accelerate its national profile. The school will play in the Western Athletic Conference as scheduled this year before moving to Conference USA.
Louisiana Tech has been in the WAC since 2001, and is coming off an 8-4 season under first-year football coach Sonny Dykes.
FIU has been in the Sun Belt since 1998, two years before North Texas joined that league.
North Texas shared the first Sun Belt football title in 2001, then won the championship outright the following three seasons. The Mean Green went to the New Orleans Bowl as the league’s representative four consecutive seasons.
The Mean Green are coming off a 5-7 season after Dan McCarney became their coach. North Texas was 13-58 the previous six years.
The Denton campus of more than 28,000 undergraduate students is just north of Dallas and Fort Worth, not far from Conference USA’s headquarters in Irving, Texas. With its addition to that league next year, UNT will replace SMU as the school closest to the conference office.
AP Sports Writers Steve Reed in Charlotte, N.C., and Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, and AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo in New York contributed to this report.