University of Tulsa President Steadman Upham joked it was not a very well kept secret.
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University of Tulsa President Steadman Upham, Vice President and Director of Athletics Derrick Gragg and Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco announced on Tuesday that Tulsa has accepted a formal invitation to join the soon-to-be-renamed Big East Conference beginning in July of 2014.
The conference's board of directors, by a unanimous vote of its presidents, extended the invitation for membership to Tulsa.
Beginning with the 2014-15 academic year, the Conference will consist of the University of Central Florida, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Connecticut, East Carolina University, the University of Houston, the University of Memphis, Southern Methodist University, the University of South Florida, Temple University, Tulane University and the University of Tulsa. The U.S. Naval Academy will become a football-only member in 2015.
The new conference affiliation is the sixth home to University of Tulsa athletic teams. Tulsa's first league membership came in the Oklahoma Collegiate Conference from 1914-28, the Big Four Conference (1929-32), the Missouri Valley Conference (1935-85), the Western Athletic Conference (1996-2004) and Conference USA (2005-present).
"The University of Tulsa family and friends are extremely excited about this new conference. TU's profile as a nationally ranked research university continues to rise alongside the continued successes of our Golden Hurricane athletic program. We welcome the opportunity to align ourselves with institutions that share our commitment to excellence and integrity. Admission into the Conference provides a new avenue for growth as we seek to further engage loyal alumni, prospective students and their families and new TU fans," said President Upham.
"The addition of The University of Tulsa marks another significant step in building a strong conference," said Aresco. "In common with our member schools, Tulsa brings a rich academic profile, outstanding and storied athletic programs, and a devoted fan base. Under the leadership of President Steadman Upham, the University will be a valued member of our conference and will make us even more competitive across the collegiate landscape."
Tulsa will reunite with former conference allies East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane and UCF. In addition, Tulsa and Cincinnati will renew its conference affiliation that saw the two teams as co-members of the Missouri Valley Conference for 13 seasons (1957-58 to 1969-70).
"I'd like to extend my gratitude to President Upham and others at TU who helped us secure this acceptance into the Conference, allowing our student-athletes to compete at the highest level," said Gragg, who was named the school's vice president and director of athletics on March 20. "TU is pleased to share a national stage with universities that also understand the traditional role athletics play in the fabric of college life. Like our coaches, I am committed to the success of our student-athletes individually and to our athletic program as a whole. Our conference realignment advances our goal of competing against top-tier teams with greater media coverage and renewed rivalries of intercollegiate athletics."
Tulsa competes in 18 intercollegiate sports. The school fields men's teams in basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, tennis, indoor and outdoor track & field. Women's teams compete in basketball, cross country, golf, rowing, soccer, softball, tennis, indoor and outdoor track & field, and volleyball.
TU's enrollment of 3,160 undergraduate students is the smallest in the FBS Division of the NCAA.
Tulsa has set a standard of success across the board in intercollegiate athletics and in the past eight seasons has won 49 conference championships. Tulsa ranked 18th in the Final Fall Learfield Sports Director's Cup Standings and in the 19 years of NACDA's Sports Director's Cup has placed among the top-100 universities 14 times.
Tulsa football has established itself as one of the nation's winningest programs in the past decade with an average of 8.4 wins. The Hurricane has made eight bowl game appearances in the past 10 years, while compiling four 10+ winning seasons in the last six years. In 2012, Tulsa posted an 11-3 record, won the Conference USA Championship and defeated Iowa State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
The greatest era of Tulsa basketball began in 1980 with Nolan Richardson at the coaching helm. Since then, Tulsa basketball success has continued under coaches Tubby Smith and Bill Self. In that time span, Tulsa has made 21 postseason tournament appearances, including 13 NCAA tournaments with one "Elite Eight" and three "Sweet 16" appearances, along with two NIT Championships. Now, one of college basketball's greatest players of all-time, Danny Manning, guides the Tulsa program.
Tulsa's NCAA appearances in the last three years have come in the sports of men's & women's cross country, women's basketball, men's & women's golf, men's soccer, softball, men's & women's tennis and women's volleyball. The indoor and outdoor track & field teams regularly advance individuals to NCAA Championship competition.
Tulsa student-athletes have also earned significant academic success. TU had 275 of nearly 400 student-athletes achieve a 3.0 GPA or better in the 2012 fall semester. Last year, Tulsa's excellence in the classroom saw Golden Hurricane student-athletes combine for an annual grade point average of 3.121.