Irving, TX (Sports Network) - The continuing realignment of college athletics continued Tuesday when Conference USA officially announced the additions of Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee State to become effective July 1, 2013.
Originally, both schools were set to join the conference no later than July 1, 2014, however, they will now exit the Sun Belt Conference one year earlier than expected and are forced to pay a $700,000 buyout to leave early.
The additions of the two schools will expand Conference USA to 14 football teams next season, as they join Florida International, Louisiana Tech, North Texas and Texas-San Antonio as new members.
The expansion offsets the loss of conference members SMU, Houston, Central Florida and Memphis, which are all joining the Big East next season, with East Carolina and Tulane set to follow in 2014.
"We are very pleased to welcome Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic to Conference USA next season," Conference commissioner Britton Banowsky said. "We look forward to supporting a 16-member league, with 14 football teams competing for Conference USA in 2013."
Middle Tennessee sponsors 17 NCAA Division I sports and is the largest undergraduate university in the state of Tennessee with an enrollment of 25,394 students. FAU has 19 sports and an enrollment of 30,000 students.
Both schools also have lucrative television markets with nearby Nashville and Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, in Tennessee and Florida, respectively.