Brad Sutton

Nov. 4, 2003

SMU Accepts Conference USA Invitation

DALLAS (SMU) -- President R. Gerald Turner has accepted an invitation for SMU to join Conference USA effective July 1, 2005, the University announced today.

SMU cheerleaders, band and athletes held a pep rally in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center at noon today with special guest, national sportscaster and former Pony Express standout Craig James. SMU students, faculty and alumni crowded the center for the announcement.

"We're very excited about this tremendous boost to our athletics program," said Turner. "Our University community, alumni, and other fans will enjoy the vitality of traditional rivalries as SMU plays comparable schools in our region. Conference USA membership will usher in a new era of spirited competition and accomplishment for SMU, and we look forward to beginning our membership."

SMU’s Board of Trustees approved the change in conference affiliation at a meeting on Oct. 17 and authorized Turner to make such a move on behalf of the University. SMU has been a member of the Western Athletic Conference since 1996.

"The new affiliation allows us to be a part of a more regional league and also aligns us with several schools with similar academic and athletic goals,” said SMU Athletic Director Jim Copeland. “Conference USA's divisional membership arrangement will be fan-friendly, allowing our fans to more easily travel to away contests while also encouraging visiting fans to travel to Dallas.

Central Florida, Marshall, Rice, Tulsa and SMU were the five schools added to the league on Tuesday. The new Conference USA will be divided into two divisions for football, with SMU, TCU, Houston, Rice, Tulsa and Tulane in the Western Division and East Carolina, Memphis, Southern Miss, UAB, Marshall and Central Florida in the Eastern Division. St. Louis and Charlotte are also members of C-USA, but do not field football teams.

Conference USA sponsors 19 sports - baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, tennis, and track & field for men and basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track & field and volleyball for women. The league's championship competition is enhanced by NCAA automatic bids in volleyball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's tennis and baseball. Seventeen of SMU's 20 sports will compete under the C-USA banner. Men's swimming will continue to be a part of the National Independent Conference, while Equestrian and Rowing will remain independent.

Editors note: A high-resolution photo of the announcement may be downloaded here.