After losing a combined nine member institutions to the American Atheltic Conference and Sun Belt Conference, Conference USA officially announced the addition of four new members who will begin play in C-USA effective July 1, 2023.
Conference USA's official release stating the additions of New Mexico State, Liberty, Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State to the league, effective July 1, 2023. pic.twitter.com/wq0posR7Di— Eric Henry (@EricCHenry_) November 5, 2021
Jacksonville State, Sam Houston State, Liberty and New Mexico State were approved unanimously by the league’s Board of Directors.
“We are incredibly excited about adding these four new members and feel there is tremendous upside in these moves for our conference,” said C-USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod. “This is a quality mix of established and emerging universities that provides us with a compelling group to continue to build with, focusing on competing for and winning championships well into the future. We have been deliberate in our efforts for the past few weeks to get us to this point and will continue to evaluate and consider our additional options for membership.”
There had been plenty of speculation as to how C-USA would fare in trying to replace the departures of six programs (Florida Atlantic, Rice, North Texas, Charlotte, UAB, UTSA) to the American, followed by three schools (Marshall, Southern Miss and Old Dominion) departing for the Sun Belt.
Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State are making the jump from the FCS to FBS level, but both have had recent success. JSU upset current C-USA member FIU in 2020 and also defeated Florida State earlier this year. Sam Houston has been a powerhouse at the FCS level, winning a 2020 National Championship and have finished in the top-10 in five of the last seven seasons.
New Mexico State has struggled since leaving the Sun Belt in 2017, amassing a 7-27 record as an FBS Independent and has only one winning season in the last decade. However, the Aggies make sense as a geographical tie-in, being less than 45 miles from UTEP.
“It’s been a big day for Conference USA to continue to add high-profile schools to our portfolio,” said UTEP AD Jim Senter. “It’s a shame that universities as close as we and NMSU are haven’t been in the same league since the 1960’s, I really hope this does something to spice up the rivalry.”
Thread: Caught up with UTEP AD Jim Senter regarding the addition of 4 teams to #CUSA, and what it means to be back in a league with New Mexico State for the first time in 60 years. pic.twitter.com/Pr7RMfrISQ— Colin Deaver (@ColinDeaverTV) November 5, 2021
Liberty has been a steady winner since current head coach Hugh Freeze arrived in 2019. The Flames have a 25-8 record since the start of the ‘19 campaign, including wins over six C-USA teams (FIU, MTSU, UAB, Old Dominion, Southern Miss, North Texas).
The addition of the four teams gives C-USA nine members, however, there have been reports that Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky will consider the Mid-American Conference, should the MAC extend an invitation.