MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Florida International University will leave the Sun Belt Conference and join Conference USA next year, according to CBSSports.com.
The Panthers will join Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Texas San Antonio, Charlotte, and Old Dominion in the new Conference USA which will eventually have 14 members. Charlotte and Old Dominion’s membership in football likely won’t start in 2013.
Conference USA was cannibalized late last year during conference realignment. C-USA lost Houston, Southern Methodist, Central Florida, and Memphis to the Big East when Missouri and Texas A&M joined the SEC and Pittsburgh and Syracuse jumped to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Conference USA will keep a presence in Florida by adding FIU and will still have two schools in Texas along with Rice. C-USA also has Marshall, East Carolina, Southern Miss, UAB, Tulane, Tulsa, and UTEP.
Once the move is completed, C-USA will split into two divisions, with seven members in the East including: East Carolina, FIU, Marshall, Southern Miss, UAB, Charlotte, and ODU and the West with Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Rice, Texas San Antonio, Tulane, Tulsa, and UTEP, according to CBSSports.com.
For FIU, it’s confirmation of the respect the school has earned with head coach Mario Cristobal at the helm. FIU won its first game against a Football Bowl Subdivision member last year and with Cristobal in house; the team could be set to make more noise in the future.
The biggest loser in all of the conference realignment is the Western Athletic Conference, or WAC. The once proud conference will be left with just two football members in 2013, meaning the conference is essentially dead.
Interestingly, the last non automatic qualifying school to win the National Championship came from the WAC. In 1984, Brigham Young University won the national championship as a WAC school.