Miners Join Conference USA

UTEP has accepted an invitation to join Conference USA beginning on July 1, 2005.

UTEP will join current Western Athletic Conference members Rice, SMU and Tulsa as members of Conference USA. The Miners will be grouped in the league's Western Division with Houston, Rice, SMU, Tulane and Tulsa.

The Eastern Division of Conference USA will be composed of Central Florida, East Carolina, Marshall, Memphis, Southern Miss and UAB beginning with the 2005-06 athletic year.

"UTEP is very pleased to have the opportunity to join its fellow WAC institutions, SMU, Rice and Tulsa, as new members of Conference USA in 2005," said UTEP President Dr. Diana Natalicio. "We look forward to continuing to compete in the Dallas and Houston areas, where there are large concentrations of UTEP alumni who have enjoyed following our teams, and we look forward to the new relationships that our Conference USA affiliation will afford us."

"This is a great move for us," said UTEP Director of Athletics Bob Stull. "As a part of the University of Texas System, we felt it was important to align with Texas schools. We have a huge alumni base in Texas, and we do the majority of our recruiting in the state. Joining Conference USA gives us a stable environment for the future, and provides us with greater exposure in three highly populated time zones."

"We're leaving one really good, competitive football conference and going to another one," said UTEP football coach Mike Price. "No matter what conference we're in, my main job will be to win as many games as we can. It certainly makes sense for a Texas school to be involved with the Western Division of Conference USA, and I'm excited about our future."

"We're excited to be in a league with other Texas schools," said UTEP men's basketball coach Doc Sadler. "It will be a quality league for men's basketball, with a history of getting multiple teams into the NCAA Tournament."

"This is a great move for the UTEP athletic department," said UTEP women's basketball coach Keitha Green. "From a women's basketball standpoint, we are excited to be joining Conference USA because it is an outstanding conference. Year in and year out, they have several teams in the NCAA Tournament. It's going to be an exciting challenge for our program and athletic department."

"Conference USA is a very solid league," said UTEP track and field coach Bob Kitchens. "There are a lot of good schools there. I have enjoyed being in the WAC, and we are going to enjoy being in Conference USA. It is a great fit for our program, the athletic department and the university."

Conference USA sponsors 19 sports -- baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, tennis and track & field (indoor and outdoor) for men and basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, track & field (indoor and outdoor) and volleyball for women. Fifteen of UTEP's 16 intercollegiate athletic teams will compete under the Conference USA banner, the exception being rifle which will continue to participate as an independent.

Conference USA has tie-ins with five bowl games -- AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Memphis, Tenn.), GMAC Bowl (Mobile, Ala.), Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (Honolulu, Hawaii), Wyndham New Orleans Bowl (New Orleans, La.) and PlainsCapital Fort Worth Bowl (Fort Worth, Texas).

Conference USA was introduced on April 24, 1995 in Chicago. Britton Banowsky was named the league's second commissioner in October 2002.

Since its inception Conference USA has fielded 34 NCAA Tournament teams in men's basketball, including one Final Four team and three Elite Eight teams; 22 bowl teams in football; and 34 NCAA Tournament teams in women's basketball.

Among C-USA's 5,000 student-athletes, there are champions off the playing field as well. In eight years, 68 student-athletes earned national Verizon Academic All-America honors, while 162 were named All-District. In addition, more than 7,500 student-athletes have been named to the Commissioner's Honor Roll or received the Commissioner's Academic Medal, indicative of outstanding achievement in the classroom. The conference annually awards six postgraduate scholarships, along with the Sport Academic Award, Scholar Athletes of the Year and the Institutional Academic Excellence Award.

ESPN, Inc. and C-USA entered into an exclusive eight-year agreement, beginning with the 2001 season. The multi-faceted agreement, which incorporates ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Regional Television, ABC Sports, ESPN.com and ESPN Classic, is highlighted by: ESPN/ESPN2's coverage of C-USA football featuring weeknight games; televising possible future C-USA Football Championship Games on ABC; men's basketball coverage; syndication and network rights for the conference's football and basketball coverage through ERT; continued exposure for women's basketball, along with volleyball, baseball, soccer and softball, as well as marketing rights. The league also provides exposure for women's basketball, men's and women's soccer, volleyball, baseball and softball through the Conference USA Television Network.

UTEP has been affiliated with the Western Athletic Conference since September 1967. The Miners have won 20 national championships as WAC members, and 21 overall. UTEP has claimed 53 Western Athletic Conference team titles. UTEP captured the 1966 national crown in men's basketball, when the school was known as Texas Western College. To this day, UTEP is the only school in the state of Texas to have won a national championship in men's basketball.

Conference USA will be the third league for UTEP, which was a member of the now-disbanded Border Conference from 1935-62.

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