C-USA adding Liberty, Jacksonville St, Sam Houston St, NMSU

National Sports

Liberty quarterback Malik Willis throws a pass against Massachusetts during an NCAA college football game in Lynchburg, Va., Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (Kendall Warner/The News & Advance via AP)

Conference USA announced Friday that it will add Liberty, Jacksonville State, New Mexico State and Sam Houston State in 2023 as the league tries to replenish its ranks after having nine schools announce plans to leave in the last month.

C-USA said its new members will join July 1, 2023.

“We are incredibly excited about adding these four new members and feel there is tremendous upside in these moves for our conference,” Conference USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a statement. “We have been deliberate in our efforts for the past few weeks to get us to this point and will continue to evaluate and consider our additional options for membership.”

The C-USA overhaul might not be done, either: Mid-American Conference presidents met Friday with possible expansion on the agenda and C-USA members Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State as potential options, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the league’s discussions are private.

Including MTSU and WKU, Conference USA has only five members that have not announced plans to leave in the next few years. The NCAA requires Football Bowl Subdivision leagues to have at least eight teams.

All of this conference realignment is a trickle down from what started in July with the Southeastern Conference inviting Texas and Oklahoma to leave the Big 12 and join the powerhouse league by 2025.

The Big 12 responded by adding four schools, three from the American Athletic Conference, which led the AAC to poach six schools from C-USA.

C-USA has also lost three members to the Sun Beltin recent weeks and the last piece of the Sun Belt’s plan to expand to 14 football members fell into place Friday: James Madison, a perennial championship contender in the Football Championship Subdivision, was given approval by the state to move up to FBS, where the Sun Belt competes.

James Madison and the Sun Belt announced they will hold a news conference Saturday on the school’s Harrisonburg, Virginia, campus. All the Sun Belt’s new schools are also expected to join by 2023.

The newest C-USA schools will keep the league far-flung, from New Mexico to Virginia.

Liberty and Jacksonville State are both members of the ASun Conference for most of their sports, though Liberty is an independent competing in FBS. Jacksonville State has been a successful program in FCS.

New Mexico State is also an FBS independent and member of Western Athletic Conference for basketball and other sports. Sam Houston State, which won the FCS championship last season, is part of the newly restarted WAC football league, which is competing in FCS this year.

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