Welcome to C-USA: Louisiana Tech

Louisiana Tech joined Conference USA on July 1 and along with them, various successful programs that are poised to make an immediate impact.

Conference USA has been one of the victims hit hardest by recent conference expansion. Considering what has been or soon will be lost, the league will likely never be what it once was.

Now, the mission for C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky is to create a new image for the league and fill it with schools that can compete with those in power conferences.

Enter Louisiana Tech, and you have the most qualified candidate – of C-USA's eight newest members – to make an immediate impact.

What they're known for

La. Tech was a force to be reckoned with on the gridiron for the last two seasons. During that span, the Bulldogs went 17-8 under head coach Sonny Dykes, including a 9-3 season in 2012. Unfortunately, having the highest scoring offense – averaging 51.5 points per game – and nearly knocking off the eventual Heisman Winner, Johnny Manziel, and Texas A&M wasn't enough for La. Tech to play in a bowl last season.

That isn't to say they weren't invited.

Athletics Director Bruce Van De Velde received an invite from the Independence Bowl, which is played in Shreveport, LA. But Van De Velde was still waiting on other doors to open and requested more time to make a decision. The Independence Bowl organizers didn't comply and Louisiana-Monroe got the invite and took La. Tech's place.

Soon after the season, Dykes accepted the coaching job at California and on July 1, Van De Velde stepped down from his position. Deputy athletics director and senior woman administrator Mary Katy Hungate is currently serving as the interim athletics director until a replacement is found.

One of Van De Velde's last decisions was hiring former East Carolina coach, Skip Holtz, to fill the void left by Dykes. Holtz was beloved at ECU during his five-year stint (2005-2009), which culminated with back-to-back conference championships.

In 2010, Holtz took his talents to South Florida and it seemed like a perfect fit for both parties after the Bulls went 8-5 his first year, but things soon turned sour. USF went a combined 8-16 for the next two seasons – including a 3-9 campaign in 2012 – which prompted the firing of Holtz.

Holtz will only inherit seven starters this fall when he and his Bulldogs travel to North Carolina for their season opener at N.C. State, but despite inexperience, La. Tech should compete in a relatively weak C-USA West division.

But wait, there's more

Similar to ECU, La. Tech's 2012-2013 men's basketball season was one of the program's best. The Bulldogs finished 27-7 (16-2 WAC) and qualified for the NIT tournament, where they soon lost to one of C-USA's best and rival, Southern Miss.

Equally as impressive, La. Tech went a perfect 14-0 on their home floor and won 17 consecutive games that spanned from Dec. 17 to March 2.

As for the other basketball team, the Lady Techsters have been undoubtedly the school's most successful team. Since the program's conception in 1974, La. Tech has won three national championships (1981, 1982, 1988), competed in 13 Final Fours, and 27 NCAA Tournaments.

Notable alumni

Staying with the hoops theme, Karl Malone attended La. Tech from 1982-1985 and led the Bulldogs to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1984. Drafted 13th overall by the Utah Jazz, Malone was a 14-time all-star and twice won the NBA's most valuable player (1997, 1999).

La. Tech's football program has produced three members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame – consisting of quarterback Terry Bradshaw (1966-1969), defensive-end Fred Dean (1972-1974), and offensive-tackle Willie Roaf (1989-1992).

In addition, the program is partly responsible for one of the country music's superstars. Though he didn't graduate from La. Tech, Trace Adkins played defensive end for the Bulldogs, which confirms his credentials for his smash-hit "Rough and Ready."

Background

Established in 1894, La. Tech is a public university located in Ruston, LA, and enrolls 9,109 undergraduates per semester. The school's mascot is a live bulldog named "Tech," that spawned from what is now a campus folk-tale.

According to legend, five students found a bulldog wandering around campus in the fall of 1899 and adopted it. During a fire at the student's house, the bulldog awoke the owners to allow them to escape the burning building. Even though the students survived, the dog didn't make it out of the house before it burned down.

A year later, La. Tech was in the process of beginning its football program and needed a mascot. Unanimously, the students voted to become the Bulldogs.


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