Sam Houston State University Prepares for Conference USA Transition

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HUNTSVILLE, Texas – As of June 1, Sam Houston State University (SHSU) is exactly one month away from officially becoming a part of Conference USA, marking a significant chapter in the University’s athletic history. The decision to join Conference USA, announced back in 2021, represents the Bearkats’ latest strategic step to augment their athletic prowess.

Joining SHSU in Conference USA starting from July 1, 2023, will be New Mexico State, Liberty University, and Jacksonville State. These universities will simultaneously embark on their transitions to Football Bowl Subdivision status, signaling a fundamental shift in their athletic journey.

SHSU’s move to Conference USA follows a relatively short stint in the Western Athletic Conference, their current league. This was, itself, a leap from the Southland Conference, where the Bearkats spent their initial 34 years as a Division I program.

The Bearkats’ rich Division I history features 72 conference titles and two NCAA titles, the pinnacle being the 2020 FCS National Championship in May.

Athletic Director Bobby Williams commented on the transition, stating, “While the landscape of college athletics has been changing rapidly, this is not a decision that was made overnight. The steps we have taken over the last decade have prepared us for this move. I think it says a lot about the overall success of our athletics programs, that our name was one of the first to come up.”

These changes reflect a broader trend in college athletics, with no less than 22 schools announcing shifts in their conference affiliations.

“We are delighted to join Conference USA and look forward to competing at a higher level, building new relationships and embracing a future this university has long considered,” said SHSU President Dr. Alisa White.

The acceptance of the four schools into Conference USA was unanimously approved by the league’s Board of Directors.

“We are incredibly excited about adding these four new members and feel there is tremendous upside in these moves for our conference,” said Conference USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod. “This is a quality mix of established and emerging universities that provides us with a compelling group to continue to build with, focusing on competing for and winning championships well into the future.”

SHSU has built a reputation as one of the top programs in the nation, having made eight playoff appearances, six trips to the semifinals, and three title game appearances since 2011.

“Positioning ourselves to play FBS football has been one of our priorities and we’ve made no secret about it,” Williams said. “While there is still work that must be done, we felt the time was right for all of our athletic programs. The way things are moving in college football, there is just no telling when an opportunity like this will come up again.”

The Bearkats will be eligible for championships and postseason play immediately in all sports except football. The transition for the football program will begin at the conclusion of the current season, culminating in eligibility for the Conference USA championship and postseason opportunities starting with the 2024 season.

This move makes Conference USA the sixth league in the Bearkats’ history, following affiliations with the Texas Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the Lone Star Conference, the Gulf Star Conference, the Southland Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference.

Conference USA, based in Dallas, Texas, is an NCAA Division I athletic conference. Now in its third decade, it continues to navigate the dynamic landscape of collegiate athletics while demonstrating commitment to excellence, integrity, and leadership in competition, academics, and community.

For more information about Conference USA, visit their website at

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