ARLINGTON, Texas - Stop if you have heard this before: a Division I program is making the move to a new conference.
Such is the case with UT Arlington as the athletic department and university announced Thursday the school will become a member of the Sun Belt Conference starting on July 1, 2013.
The move comes just over 11 months after the Mavericks announced they would move to the Western Athletic Conference from their home of 46 years - the Southland Conference.
"This is another milestone day for UT Arlington athletics," UTA director of athletics Jim Bakersaid. "I want to thank commissioner Karl Benson for the invitation to compete in the Sun Belt Conference. This move to the Sun Belt will allow us to continue to showcase our athletics program on a national level and create further awareness for our university." UT Arlington was excited when it announced the move to the WAC last July but changes in the collegiate conference landscape opened the door to a move to a league where the Mavericks have a lot of ties.
UTA will be travel partners with Texas State, which has long been in the Southland Conference with the Mavericks and will also play in the WAC in 2012-13. Former Southland schools UL Lafayette, UL Monroe and Arkansas State are also members of the Sun Belt.
"This was a perfect fit for us and having Texas State in the conference was a key component of us joining the league to keep our rivalry with them alive," Baker added at the school's news conference announcing the move Thursday.
This will also be the second move to a conference under the direction of Karl Benson. He was the commissioner of the WAC when the Mavericks joined last year and he recently moved to the same position at the Sun Belt.
"The conference has a great sense of direction under the leadership of Karl Benson and we are happy to be a part of it," Baker added.
The UT Arlington coaches are excited about the move as well.
"I am excited about it," head men's basketball coach Scott Cross said. "It is a great opportunity for not only the athletic department but the university as well. Mr. Benson's leadership is tremendous and we already have some rivalries with teams in the league. This is a great opportunity for our guys to play in the WAC and then in the Sun Belt the following year."
"It makes sense for us geographically to be playing in the Sun Belt," head women's coach Samantha Morrow said. "We are going to be playing on one coast this upcoming season and on the other the following year and in seasons to come. I know my entire team and staff are excited about these moves."
In the never-changing landscape of collegiate conference movement, the Sun Belt does give the Mavericks a place to call home for the future.
"The Sun Belt gives a place of stability," Baker said. "Karl has a vision for the conference for where it is going. The teams that are in the league are all committed to making the league stronger. No one is going to know what is going to happen in the future but no matter what happens this league is strong and we are excited to be a part of it."
As always when one talks about UT Arlington athletics, the question of football comes up and it did so at Thursday announcement.
"That (adding football) was not part of the deal of us joining the Sun Belt," Baker said. "We need to look at our existing facilities and need to take care of them and get them to the level of the College Park Center. If we can compete in the 14 sports that we have then we will be in a great position."
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