Houston Baptist to become Southland member

The Southland Conference announced Monday that Houston Baptist University will become its 11th member on July 1, 2013.

The Houston school's new football program will join the Southland for the 2014 season as its ninth member.

When it joins the Southland, Houston Baptist will become eligible for conference championships and NCAA automatic bids in most of the league's sports. The Huskies participate in 14 of the Southland's 17 sponsored championships.

"The addition of Houston Baptist is the latest step in the effort of the Southland presidents to ensure future membership stability for the league," Southland commissioner Tom Burnett said. "As we've mentioned previously, the board has only shown interest in institutions that clearly bring added value to the league. The group clearly sees the benefits of adding a football- playing institution in the biggest city within the Southland's current footprint."

The university is planning to replace 48-year-old Sharp Gym, home of its basketball and volleyball teams, with a new multi-purpose Special Events Center on its campus in southwest Houston.

Houston Baptist will join Oral Roberts University, which is joining the Southland next year, as the league's first private institutions since charter members Trinity University and Abilene Christian University departed the conference in early 1970s.