Middle Tennessee State won’t overstay its welcome.
Less than two months after the school announced its intent to move to Conference USA, it decided to leave the Sun Belt Conference early. University officials announced Tuesday that MTSU would become a full member of C-USA on July 1 and would be eligible to compete in the conference for the 2013-14 school year.
“While we have been proud members of the Sun Belt Conference, it was felt that it was in the best interest of the University, our student-athletes and supporters to accelerate our move to Conference USA,” MTSU President Sidney McPhee said. “C-USA's television partnerships, increased bowl tie-ins and larger national footprint will provide better and stronger platforms for our athletics program and our University.”
McPhee said the University will pay the Sun Belt Conference $700,000 to leave the league by June 30 but quickly will recover that fee through C-USA's revenue sharing program.
MTSU spent the last 13 years in the Sun Belt, during which time it won 54 conference championships and eight All-Sport trophies.
Initially, McPhee and athletics director Chris Massaro debated on whether to remain in the Sun Belt through 2013-14 to allow the conference time to look for a replacement.
The decision comes just a month after MTSU's football team was left out of a bowl despite a 8-4 record and a tie for second place in the conference. Bowl selections were made just three days after the Blue Raiders announced they were leaving the Sun Belt.
MTSU will be the 15th member of Conference USA, which includes Charlotte, East Carolina, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, North Texas, Old Dominion, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, Alabama-Birmingham, Texas-El Paso and Texas-San Antonio.
Massaro said in November that the move to C-USA would allow for opportunities to strengthen corporate and ticket sales, increase alumni donations and open new recruiting avenues. The Blue Raiders also will get into more homes with larger national and regional television exposure. The C-USA, based in Irving, Texas, has partnerships with CBS Sports Network, Fox Sports Media Group and ESPN.
“We have enjoyed a great partnership with the Sun Belt Conference, which has provided us many avenues to further improve our athletic program,” Massaro said. “We look forward to our future in Conference USA and are excited about developing new relationships with its member schools. I am really eager to see how our 2013 home football schedule shapes up.”