July 19, 2004
As it prepares to embark on a new era in its remarkable, yet brief, history, Conference USA celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2004-05.
Beginning in 2005-06, Marshall, Rice, SMU, Tulsa, UCF and UTEP will compete with East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, Southern Miss, Tulane and UAB in a 12-team conference. Current C-USA members Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and USF will become members of the Big East, while TCU goes to the Mountain West and Charlotte and Saint Louis will join the Atlantic 10 at the end of this year. The membership changes have given C-USA the chance to play a pivotal role in the changing face of conference affiliations and will reinforce the league's position in collegiate athletics for years to come.
With a promising future ahead, there is plenty for the league to celebrate from its first nine years. After its formation in 1995, C-USA established a strong foundation while quickly earning a reputation of successfully competing at the highest levels of intercollegiate athletics, and earning a spot alongside the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC as one of seven conferences having significant representation in the NCAA governance structure. Capitalizing on the strengths of its 15 distinguished and diverse universities, Conference USA quickly emerged as one of the nation's top conferences.
Conference USA sponsors 19 sports - baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, tennis, and track and field (indoor and outdoor) for men and basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field (indoor and outdoor), and volleyball for women.
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 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 those sports through the Conference USA Television Network.
The league's student-athletes and teams have achieved great success in competition, while excelling off the playing field. Overall, Conference USA teams and individuals have made more than 350 NCAA appearances. Football, which began competition in 1996, is rated among the top seven conferences in the nation and has sent 22 teams to post-season play. A member of the Bowl Championship Series, the league currently has tie-ins with five outstanding bowls. In basketball, the league is consistently rated among the nation's best in both men's and women's competition. Men's basketball has produced 34 NCAA and 24 NIT teams and draws nearly two million fans each season. In 2003, Marquette advanced to the NCAA Final Four. C-USA women's basketball claims 34 NCAA and 20 WNIT teams as well as an NCAA Sweet 16 participant. The league has set attendance records in each of the last three seasons.
Among C-USA's 5,000 student-athletes, there are champions off the playing field as well. More than 9,500 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. Eleven of the institutions began athletic participation in 1995, while Houston joined in the fall of 1996. The league's headquarters were established in Chicago and after nine years, relocated to Irving, Texas. Banowsky was named commissioner in October 2002, succeeding Mike Slive, the league's first commissioner.
The league's charter members include Charlotte, Cincinnati, DePaul, Houston, Louisville, Marquette, Memphis, Saint Louis, Southern Miss, Tulane, UAB and USF. C-USA added East Carolina (September, 1996) and the United States Military Academy (March, 1997) as football members. ECU began league competition in 1997; Army in 1998 and UAB began football play in 1999. The league added TCU and ECU (1999) for all sports and they began competition in 2001. USF started C-USA football in 2003.