Source: UNT, FIU, La. Tech to C-USA

Updated: May 3, 2012, 9:34 PM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- North Texas will leave the Sun Belt to join Conference USA, a source close to the program said Thursday.

The source also said Louisiana Tech and Florida International will be joining the Mean Green in Conference USA, along with Texas-San Antonio, whose move was approved by the University of Texas System regents Thursday morning.

Charlotte also appears set to join the C-USA, scheduling a news conference on Friday to discuss conference affiliation. Among those scheduled to attend are 49ers football coach Brad Lambert, chancellor Phil Dubois and athletic director Judy Rose.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson said North Texas and FIU have been up front about their desires to leave.

"They've done it in a very professional manner," Benson said in a phone interview Thursday night.

The Sun Belt recently added Texas State and Georgia State as football members starting in 2013 in anticipation of losing two schools.

"We've been able to minimize any damage," Benson said.

There could be even more additions in the future to the incoming five and the eight remaining C-USA schools: Southern Miss, Marshall, East Carolina, Tulane, Tulsa, Rice, UTEP and UAB.

Those schools, along with the schools remaining and heading to the Mountain West Conference announced plans earlier this year to form a new conference, with as many as 24 teams located in five time zones. While a full merger is no longer on the table, the two leagues are still working on a partnership.

North Texas, which is leaving the Sun Belt Conference, scheduled a news conference for Friday to address the "future of Mean Green athletics."

The news conference, with school President V. Lane Rawlins and athletic director Rick Villarreal, will be held at the school's $78 million, 30,850-seat campus football stadium which opened last season when the team went 5-7 under coach Dan McCarney.

Since last season, UNT has hired former Marquette associate head coach Tony Benford to coach the men's basketball team and Mike Peterson, formerly of Wake Forest, to coach the women's program.

North Texas won four football conference titles and two men's basketball titles during its stay in the Sun Belt.

The Denton campus of more than 28,000 undergraduate students is just north of Dallas and Fort Worth, not far from C-USA's headquarters in Irving, Texas. With its addition to that league next year, UNT will replace SMU as the school closest to the conference office.

Charlotte was a C-USA member from 1995-2005. The 49ers left the conference for the Atlantic 10 because they didn't have a football team.

But Charlotte is building a new campus stadium and will begin playing football in 2013 as an FCS independent. Providing it can meet NCAA attendance standards, it will be allowed to move up to the FBS and become part of C-USA football in 2015-16. The 49ers football program is still in the start-up phase. It will practice this fall with its incoming freshman class -- all to be redshirted -- but not begin play until 2013.

Old Dominion also could be added to the revamped C-USA, the source said.

Louisiana Tech has been in the WAC since 2001, and is coming off an 8-4 season under first-year football coach Sonny Dykes.

FIU has been in the Sun Belt since 1998, two years before North Texas joined that league.

C-USA is losing Houston, SMU, Memphis and Central Florida. The remaining schools are Texas-El Paso, Tulane, Alabama-Birmingham, East Carolina, Marshall, Rice, Southern Miss and Tulsa.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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