September 30, 2014  

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Southern Miss Among Universities Planning to Form New Athletic Conference

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Presidents and chancellors from 16 universities met in Dallas Sunday to discuss future conference membership plans and agreed to work on forming a new intercollegiate athletic association that would begin competition in the 2013-14 academic year.

This presidentially led association will ensure stability and be built upon the principles of operating at the highest level of integrity and sportsmanship, enhancing the student-athlete academic and competitive experience, bringing fiscal discipline into athletics and ensuring competitive fairness.

Universities involved in the discussions were the United States Air Force Academy, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Colorado State University, East Carolina University, Fresno State, University of Hawaii, Marshall University, University of Nevada-Reno, University of New Mexico, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Rice University, University of Southern Mississippi, University of Texas at El Paso, Tulane University, The University of Tulsa and University of Wyoming. With the exception of Hawaii as a football only member, the participation would involve all sports.

“The University of Southern Mississippi is excited about the new possibilities that will come with this announced association between Conference USA and Mountain West Conference member institutions," said Southern Miss Interim Director of Athletics Jeff Hammond. "This association gives us a stronger, more competitive league that will stretch from the Atlantic seaboard to our 50th state. We will continue to play our C-USA rivals each year, but will also have the potential to compete against institutions from other parts of the country.

"By Southern Miss joining this association, it gives us the best possible option to continue to compete at the highest level of NCAA competition in a stronger and more stable capacity which will further enhance our national visibility.“

Southern Miss has been a member of Conference USA since the conference's inception in 1995.

The structure of the new conference will likely include:

·        Membership of 18 to 24 universities

·        National scope from the Atlantic Seaboard to Hawaii

·        Championship football game format that includes semifinal match-ups

·        Championship basketball tournament

·        Regular season scheduling in divisions

·        NCAA FBS affiliation

·        Mechanisms to emphasize and improve academic standards and fiscal responsibility

 The presidents and chancellors will have follow-up meetings over the next six months to fully develop the operational issues essential to the formation of the association.