Middle Tennessee State joining Conference USA - WSMV Channel 4

Middle Tennessee State joining Conference USA

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MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV-AP) -

Middle Tennessee State University made it official Thursday morning by announcing its athletic programs will be leaving the Sun Belt conference to join Conference USA.

MTSU President Sidney McPhee and Athletic Director Chris Massaro held a news conference to announce the move, which will come along with Florida Atlantic University.

When the two schools join Conference USA, the league will consist of 14 schools in 10 states.

You can always find MTSU Student Government Association President Coby Sherlock promoting the university.

"Looking (forward) to 2013 and 2014 when we make this move to the Conference USA," Sherlock said.

The word is just beginning to spread across campus about the move, but the excitement has already begun.

"So we're looking to get better and brighter students from this move and join the conference - not only competing athletically, but also competing academically - to be the best in the United States," Sherlock said.

The move to Conference USA goes well beyond athletics. McPhee sees this as an opportunity to grow the university academically.

"It's a major step up for the university as we have evolved over the years as a major comprehensive university in the United States," McPhee said.

MTSU is expected to make the move to Conference USA by July 2014, but the university will start immediately to promote its academics, hoping to recruit more of the country's top students.

In order to leave the Sun Belt Conference, the university will have to pay an exit fee which could be as much as $1 million.

"We are in discussion with the Sun Belt in with regards to the exit fee," McPhee said.

But, the school president believes this is a worthwhile investment.

"Clearly, when you look at the TV contracts, the marketing and the branding of C-USA, there's a lot of revenue that's going to be generated with moving to the Conference USA," McPhee said.

Sherlock said the students couldn't agree more.

"Getting the national attention that we deserve is important. Being on TV more, letting the United States see what kind of students and athletes we're producing here at MTSU is very important," Sherlock said.

The Blue Raiders have won eight all-sports Sun Belt trophies in 12 years in the Sun Belt, along with 53 conference championships, 38 coaches of the year and four athletes of the year awards.

The Blue Raiders (8-3) play Arkansas State on Saturday for the Sun Belt Conference football championship.

Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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