BOCA RATON, FL (FAUSports.com) - Florida Atlantic University has entered into a membership agreement with Conference USA and will join the league in 2014. Conference USA (C-USA) will include 14 schools in 10 states and provide FAU's nearly 500 student-athletes a broad range of new experiences and recognition.
"Florida Atlantic University is now a proud member of Conference USA," said FAU President Mary Jane Saunders. "We look forward to the opportunities a new league will offer. Conference USA's media partnerships will provide FAU with increased national exposure, and our fans will benefit from new rivalries and an exciting new dynamic for FAU athletics."
C-USA's existing media contracts include television partnerships with FOX Sports Media Group, CBS Sports Network and ESPN. In August 2011, the conference launched a digital network, which includes live streaming of non-televised events, video on demand, a weekly C-USA show, podcasting, regular-season and championship event highlights, and conference-produced feature stories.
"This is a momentous day in the history of Florida Atlantic University," said FAU Athletics Director Pat Chun. "We are proud to be aligned with the great institutions that define Conference USA. More than ever, we are committed to the development of our student-athletes into leaders and champions."
Membership in C-USA reunites FAU with its in-state rival FIU, which joins the league in 2013. The league's other institutions will include Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Old Dominion, Rice, Southern Mississippi, Texas-San Antonio, Tulsa, UAB and UTEP. Charlotte will be a non-football member until 2015.
New C-USA additions will grow the league's footprint by 20 percent and allow for a division-scheduling model that will be beneficial to all student-athletes, fan-friendly and cost effective. FAU will be showcased in four of the top 25 and 11 of the top 65 markets in the country, according to Nielsen's 2012-2013 estimates.
"The future of Florida Atlantic and its athletics is very bright," said Britton Banowsky, commissioner of Conference USA. "The commitment to excellence by FAU's outstanding leadership is clear, as evident by its new on-campus stadium. FAU is a perfect fit for the divisional model and located in a destination Conference USA fans will enjoy."
FAU opened 29,419-seat FAU Stadium in 2011 and will play the final home game of its second season in the new venue on Saturday, Dec. 1, against Louisiana-Lafayette. C-USA offers championships for each of the 19 varsity sports sponsored by FAU. In football, the league is a member of the Bowl Championship Series and has tie-ins with the following bowls: AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Beef O'Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Military Bowl, R+L Carrier New Orleans Bowl, Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, and the TicketCity Bowl.
C-USA has consistently been ranked as one of the top men's basketball leagues in the country while its women's basketball teams have made 47 NCAA Tournament and 38 Women's National Invitation Tournament appearances. Six C-USA members have reached baseball's College World Series.
FAU has been affiliated with the Sun Belt Conference since 2005 after a period as a Division I-AA independent institution. As a member of the Sun Belt, FAU's student-athletes have garnered success on the field and off, securing seven conference championships. FAU's football team won the Sun Belt championship in 2007 and the league's bowl tie-ins led to appearances and victories in the 2007 New Orleans Bowl and the 2008 Motor City Bowl. The men's golf, women's cross country and women's tennis teams recently received the NCAA's 2011-12 Public Recognition Award, an honor bestowed on teams with a Division I Academic Progress Rate in the top 10 percent of all squads in their respective sports.
"FAU is tremendously proud of its accomplishments as a member of the Sun Belt Conference," added President Saunders. "Affiliation with the Sun Belt provided an opportunity for FAU's football program to move to Division I-A and raised the competition level for our student-athletes both academically and athletically. FAU enjoyed its years in the Sun Belt and is very proud of all that our teams accomplished as Sun Belt competitors. I thank Former Commissioner Wright Waters and Commissioner Karl Benson for their leadership of the league."