Conference USA Membership Made Official at MU

It was not exactly a state secret. Today, Marshall made it official. The Herd will leave the Mid-American Conference in 2005 to join a reconstituted Conference USA that will celebrate its 10th anniversary that year with a new look to a league that is continuing to re-invent itself. Marshall will be joined by MAC football member, UCF, who will become an all-sports members of CUSA along with Western Athletic Conference members Rice University, the University of Tulsa and SMU.

At a press conference held Wednesday morning in the Robert C. Hartley Big Green Room of the Cam Henderson Center, Marshall President Dr. Dan Angel said Marshall had enjoyed its relationship with the MAC since moving up to Division I-A football and the league in 1997, but it was an opportunity the school could not pass up.

"I think like everything else in university life, it (the MU athletic program) has evolved to the next logical step," said Angel. "There are four or five reasons why this should take place.

"Marshall has gotten some national visability from its football program and athletic program. Marshall would not be known as well if not for our football program. Students will not attend a school they have not heard of. We are moving from the southern-most part of the MAC to the northern-most part of the Conference USA. That's good for fans and athletes, going to warm weather. Five bowl opportunities were important. Finances can be improved by television contracts. It's is good for our image and status (as a university)."

Director of Athletics at Marshall, Bob "Kayo" Marcum, said it took many people to pull off this move. "We started in May with (accounting firm) Price-Watterhouse," said Marcum. "They provide services for top 30 programs in the country. They looked at us, our university, Conference USA, the Big East, they looked at lots of things. Graduation rates, acceptance rates, how many degrees do you offer.

"Then, they looked at the athletic department, especially the football program. Conference USA showed the most interest and that's the way we leaned." Marshall hopes to keep games with some MAC teams, especially Ohio and Miami, if possible.

"We are not interested in people pointing out the obvious to us," said Marcum. "We know we need facility upgrades and we are developing a comprehensive plan." Marshall hopes with financial and facility improvements to help coaches win in other ways besides just between the lines according to Marcum. "This is a Marshall University day today."

CUSA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said, "We are excited about adding new members and making structural improvements to Conference USA. This is an opportunity for us to tighten our geography, group similar institutions together, create a divisional model and possibly stage a football championship game."

Banowsky threw out an invitation to current members St. Louis and UNC-Charlotte to remain in the league, although they have been rumored, along with Boston University, to be under consideration by the Atlantic 10. A-10 presidents met Tuesday, but made no recommendations for expansion. "We recognize Saint Louis and Charlotte, the remaining I-AAA members in the conference, might prefer a more compatible competitive structure, which is understandable," said Banowsky. "You just never know, but whatever happens, we will be ready." This also referred to a Dallas Morning News report on Tuesday that stated TCU, who just left the Western Athletic Conference two years ago for CUSA, might get an invitation to the Mountain West Conference to join programs like BYU, Utah, Colorado State, San Diego State and Air Force. Reports out of TCU indicate the athletic department is not united in this possible move to the MWC, which would cost the school a quarter-million dollars extra in travel per year and take them out of the preferential media (re:ESPN TV) time zones of Eastern and Central to play all away games in the Mountain and Pacific time zones.

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