SAN ANTONIO — UTSA officially became a member of Conference USA (C-USA) on Monday. The Roadrunners joined Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, Florida International (FIU), Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, North Texas and Old Dominion as full members, which pushed the league's membership to 16 schools.
The Roadrunners are coming off a successful 2012-13 campaign in their lone year as a member of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). UTSA won this year's WAC Commissioner's Cup, which is awarded to the school that performs the best in each of the league's 19 men's and women's championships. The department's winning point total of 90 was bolstered by WAC Championships in indoor track & field and baseball (tournament). The Roadrunners also captured 12 individual conference titles (nine men's track & field/three women's track & field) and had a total of 137 WAC All-Academic honorees.
That came on the heels of a 21-year run as a member of the Southland Conference. UTSA won a total of 58 Southland Team Championships after joining the league in 1991-92 and 37 of those came in its last dozen years. UTSA also won two Commissioner’s Cups (2007-08 & 2010-11) and it boasted a conference-leading 30 Student-Athletes of the Year since the circuit started handing out the award in 2002-03.
From its beginning in 1995, C-USA's dedication to excellence has been the league's guiding principle and remains a common thread today and for a promising future. Throughout the changes during its history, the conference has held onto its strong foundation that reflects its national presence. Its 16 schools have compiled numerous athletics and academic achievements and, additionally, the C-USA footprint has grown by nearly 20 percent, while providing the geography that allows for a divisional scheduling model that will be beneficial to the student-athletes, fan-friendly and cost effective.
C-USA sponsors competition in 20 sports — nine for men (baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field) and 11 for women (basketball, cross country, golf, rowing, softball, soccer, swimming & diving, tennis, indoor and outdoor track & field, volleyball).
The league sponsors numerous academic awards, including the Commissioner's Honor Roll and the Commissioner's Academic Medal, indicative of outstanding achievement in the classroom, in addition to sport specific all-academic teams.
C-USA annually awards 12 postgraduate scholarships, along with the Sport Academic Award, Scholar-Athletes of the Year and the Institutional Academic Excellence Award. The conference also added a Spirit of Service Award, which recognizes student-athletes three times a year for a combination of significant community service efforts, good academic standing and participation in their elected sport.
C-USA performers have achieved great success in competition, placing the league among the top leagues in the nation.
Seventy-two football programs have earned bowl bids and Bowl Championship Series member has tie-ins with the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Heart of Dallas Bowl, Military Bowl, R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and Sheraton Hawai`i Bowl
Meanwhile, 108 men’s basketball teams have participated in postseason play (50 NCAA/42 NIT/8 CIT/8 CBI), 48 women’s basketball squads have appeared in the NCAA Tournament and 58 baseball programs have made NCAA Tournament appearances. Additionally, 37 volleyball teams, 67 men’s and women’s soccer squads and 39 softball programs have received NCAA Championship bids. The league also has had nine national champions in track & field, one in diving and numerous NCAA individual and team competitors in cross country, golf, rowing, swimming and tennis. Overall, C-USA teams and individuals have made more than 700 NCAA Championship appearances since the league’s inception in 1995-96.
C-USA institutions are among the nation's best in academic performance among student-athletes, bolstered by the fact that they have a higher graduation rate than the general student population. Among its 5,000 student-athletes, there are champions off the playing field as well. In 18 years, 176 student-athletes have earned Academic All-America honors, while 618 have been named Academic All-District. In addition, more than 26,000 have been named to the Commissioner's Honor Roll or received the Commissioner's Academic Medal, indicative of outstanding achievement in the classroom.
The league enjoys significant television exposure through partnerships with FOX Sports Media Group, CBS Sports Network and ESPN. The multi-tiered selection process that is rooted in partnering with all three networks has substantially increased the number of national and regional appearances for football, men's and women's basketball and all other conference sports.
As one of the largest Football Bowl Subdivision conferences in 2013, C-USA membership will include institutions in 12 of the Top 65 television markets, eight in the Top 40 and four in the Top 25 media markets according to Nielson. C-USA home markets next year will include more than 14.5 million TV households, a 43 percent increase from a year ago.
The C-USA Digital Network officially launched in August 2011. Network programming includes live streaming of non-televised events, video-on-demand, a weekly studio show, podcasting, regular season and championship event highlights and conference-produced feature stories. In its first year, 1,164 events were streamed live and 8,126 videos were posted and available on the network. Monthly and yearly subscriptions offer fans access to events offered on all of the C-USA member institution's athletics websites, as well as C-USA network programming.
The conference's current footprint is concentrated with 16 members in nine states and a combined area population of nearly 17 million. With a commitment to community involvement, the league has developed several initiatives to maintain strong ties in C-USA cities, as well as with fans and alumni across the country. Member schools also place a priority on giving back to their communities through volunteer service with local and national organizations. Individually, student-athletes are recognized each season through the Spirit of Service award.
C-USA has significant representation in the NCAA governance structure and the presidents of the member institutions serve as the league's Board of Directors.
The league was formed in 1995 and quickly emerged as one of the nation's top conferences. It unveiled its name, logo and commissioner April 24, 1995, in Chicago. Charter members included Alabama-Birmingham (UAB), Charlotte, Cincinnati, DePaul, Houston, Louisville, Marquette, Memphis, Saint Louis, South Florida (USF), Southern Mississippi, and Tulane. Eleven of the institutions began athletics participation in 1995, while Houston joined competition in Fall 1996.
The conference's headquarters was established in Chicago and, after nine years, relocated to the current office in Irving, Texas. Britton Banowsky was named commissioner in October 2002, succeeding Mike Slive, who was the league's first-ever commissioner.
C-USA added East Carolina in September 1996 and Army the following March as football members. East Carolina began league competition in 1997, Army in '98 and UAB began football play the next season. The conference added East Carolina and TCU in 1999 for all sports and they began competition in 2001. USF started C-USA football in 2003, while Central Florida, Marshall, Rice, SMU, Tulsa and UTEP became full-time members two years later.