Welcome to C-USA: Florida Atlantic University

Florida Atlantic University is among nine schools that officially joined Conference-USA on July 1 and one of a few arriving from the Sun Belt Conference.

Naturally, adding nine new teams to the conference changes the dynamic quite a bit. Some things will stay the same, though--even for the new teams. Almost like a package deal, FAU will move to C-USA along with rival Florida International.

With the addition of programs like Louisiana Tech., the football scene in C-USA is becoming increasingly interesting. While FAU has a good, young football program, it's their baseball squad that seems most poised to make an immediate impact.

Owls on the diamond

Of all of FAU's athletic programs, their baseball team is the most decorated. The team was led by Steve Traylor for its first seven years before Kevin Cooney took over and established a mid-major dynasty.

From 1988-2008, Kevin Cooney took the team former head coach Steve Taylor started from nothing and brought it to the main stage in the NCAA. Cooney led the team to 748 wins and coached 67 players that went on to play professionally.

Most impressive was the Owls' 1999 season. They finished with an astonishing 54-9 record and set the all-time NCAA record for most consecutive wins with 34 victories.

Since Cooney stepped down, John McCormack has taken charge as head coach. He's led the team to winning season all four years at the helm and was especially impressive this past season.

The Owls finished the regular season with a record of 32-22 and went on to claim the Sun Belt Conference championship on their way out the door. In the NCAA Regional, they gave top-seeded University of North Carolina a run for its money, but ended their season following a 13-inning thriller.

Building a football presence

Started in 2001, FAU's football program is younger than the baseball program, but it hasn't risen to the heights that the Owls' baseball squad did in its infancy. Since its inception, the Owls have only had four winning seasons.

They seemed to get a hold of things upon entering the Sun Belt Conference. The Owls finished top three in the conference four of its first five years, but things went downhill pretty quickly after that.

They posted a disappointing 4-8 record in 2010. Following that was a dismal 1-11 performance in 2011 that saw the Owls get shutout on three occasions. That spelled the end of Howard Schnellenberger's coaching tenure at FAU.

C-USA should offer Carl Pelini and the Owls an opportunity to emerge from their slump. They'll meet familiar names such as Florida International. Also, they get to play UAB—their sole victory in 2011—in a conference setting.

Finally, this first season in C-USA should offer an easy transition simply because their non-conference matchups seem less overwhelming. That said, it can't get much worse for the owls than standing opposite of No. 7 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama like they did last season.

Notable alumni

Ironically enough, FAU's baseball program hasn't produced any impact MLB players. The Owls' baseball team may be the most consistently impressive, but their football program has produced one of last season's most impressive NFL rookies.

In a draft class with the likes of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Doug Martin, just to name a few, it is hard to stand out.

Not for Alfred Morris.

The Washington Redskins drafted the running back with a sixth-round pick they received in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings. He ended up finishing his rookie season second to Adrian Peterson in total rushing yards and second to Adrian Foster in rushing touchdowns.

Morris and fellow rookie RGIII accounted for 90 percent of the Redskins' rushing yards.

Background

Florida Atlantic University is a public university in Boca Raton, Florida. The school's undergraduate enrollment is approaching 24,000.

Although they go by the Owls, FAU's baseball team once went by the nickname "The Blue Wave." In 2004, a student vote made the Owls the school's official nickname and the former nickname was phased out in a branding movement for FAU athletics.


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