Friday, May 4, 2012 , Updated 9:37 a.m., May 7, 2012
UPDATED: UNT to join Conference USA in 2013
The Mean Green has competed in the Sun Belt since 2001.
UNT took the next step in enhancing its athletics program when it received and accepted an invitation to join Conference USA Friday morning.
The Mean Green will remain in the Sun Belt Conference until July 1, 2013, when the move to Conference USA will take effect.
“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,” UNT Athletic Director Rick Villarreal said in a press release. “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.”
Four other schools will move to Conference USA along with UNT: current Sun Belt Conference foe Florida International University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Louisiana Tech University.
The influx of new schools into the conference follows the exit of SMU, the University of Houston, the University of Memphis, and the University of Central Florida from to other conferences.
The move to Conference USA is expected to help UNT in recruiting, national television exposure, and postseason opportunities.
“Kids want opportunities to be on television and to go to bowl games, and Conference USA just enhances all of those things for all of us,” head football coach Dan McCarney said. “C-USA has tremendous bowl tie-ins and great television exposure, and all of those things are important when we sit down to talk to young men and recruiting.”
UNT was the only Texas school in the Sun Belt, but will be one of four in Conference USA. The other three are UTSA, Rice University, and the University of Texas at El Paso.
The Mean Green has competed in the Sun Belt since 2001 after it moved from the Big West Conference.
During its Sun Belt tenure, UNT has captured 19 conference championships in various sports, including the recent conference championships in tennis and men’s golf this year.
The UNT Athletic Department will discuss the conference change and what it means for UNT in a press conference Friday afternoon.
UPDATE: The UNT Athletic Department addressed the impact of the university’s acceptance of an invitation to join Conference USA in a press conference Friday afternoon, expressing excitement about what the move will do for UNT.
“It’s a big day for us,” UNT President V. Lane Rawlins said. “It’s not something unexpected. The right things in life happen when you do the right things and we’ve been doing the right things.”
The move to Conference USA helps elevate the university’s athletic program to a higher level, Villarreal said.
“I always believed that we could get where we wanted to go,” Villarreal said. “We don’t want to talk about where we need to go any more because we are where we want to be.”
One of the benefits of moving to Conference USA is increased national television exposure. Conference USA signed a deal with FOX Broadcasting Company last year that allows a minimum of 20 nationally-televised football games each year.
“This university is going to get the kind of exposure never seen here before,” Villarreal said. “We’re located smack in the middle of this conference. The news media is going to have to take notice of us.”
In addition to the increased exposure, the move to Conference USA will allow for less travel to road games.
In the Sun Belt Conference, UNT was the only Texas school and had only three conference opponents within 650 miles.
However, as a member of Conference USA, UNT will be one of four Texas schools and will have seven conference opponents within 650 miles.
“The ability for student athletes has always been first to me about class and academics,” Villarreal said. “That they get the proper rest for their bodies and the proper time to study was first and foremost what we looked for. Conference USA makes that easier.”
Despite the move to the new conference, the athletic program’s goals won’t change, Villarreal said.
“I don’t think the expectations have changed much,” Villarreal said. “This just becomes a bigger platform for us.”
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