Sources: Liberty, New Mexico State, Sam Houston, Jacksonville State Officially Join Conference USA
Andy Hancock/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: The Sam Houston Bearkats football team, celebrating their victory in the 2021 Division I FCS Football Championship.
- Liberty, New Mexico State, Sam Houston and Jacksonville State have officially joined Conference USA, sources told The Action Network's Brett McMurphy.
- McMurphy breaks down what that means for the conference below.
FBS independents Liberty and New Mexico State and FCS members Jacksonville State and Sam Houston have officially joined Conference USA as all-sports members, sources told The Action Network.
A formal announcement is expected Friday. On Monday, The Action Network reported the four schools “likely” would join the league.
The addition of those four schools will help Conference USA replenish its membership after losing as many as 11 of its 14 members.
Nine schools already have announced they would leave C-USA, while Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee “likely” will join the MAC, if approved by the MAC Presidents, sources told The Action Network on Monday.
“Conference USA wants to get to eight or nine members,” an industry source said. “If the MAC doesn’t expand, then C-USA will have nine members and could be done.”
There also remains a possibility that FBS independents UConn and UMass could join the league as football-only members, sources said.
Liberty is C-USA’s Biggest Catch
The moves to join C-USA were a “no-brainer” for FBS independents Liberty and New Mexico State, a source said.
Among the reasons are the tie-ins to multiple bowl bids and the substantial increase in revenue they would receive from the College Football Playoff as a conference member.
“If for some reason, they decide not to join, I don’t see how they would survive long-term,” a source said.
Liberty is the biggest addition for C-USA. The Flames are 25-8 the past three years as an independent under coach Hugh Freeze. LU already has clinched its third consecutive bowl game and visits No. 15 Ole Miss (6-2) in what’s the biggest regular-season game in the Flames’ history.
Last year, Liberty ranked as high as No. 17 in the Associated Press rankings.
The Flames’ men’s basketball team has had five consecutive 20-win seasons and has reached the NCAA Tournament in two of the last three seasons.
A long-time member of the Big West until 2000, New Mexico State has bounced around between the Sun Belt (2001-04), WAC (2005-12), one season as an independent in 2013, back to the Sun Belt (2014-17) before becoming an independent since 2018.
The Aggies’ men’s basketball program has been a perennial NCAA Tournament team, reaching the NCAA Tournament in eight of the past 12 years, and have won more than 20 games in nine consecutive seasons (excluding last year’s shortened COVID-19 season).
Located in Jacksonville, Alabama, Jacksonville State has won six Ohio Valley championships since 2011. The Gamecocks have played in the FCS Playoffs eight times since 2013 and were the 2015 national runners-up.
Sam Houston won last year’s FCS national title and has won five Southland Conference titles since 2011.
With the expected moves of Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee to the MAC and Liberty, New Mexico State, Jacksonville State and Sam Houston to C-USA, that would mean 22 schools would have changed leagues since Oklahoma and Texas announced in July they were moving to the SEC.