Norfolk, VA – Old Dominion University's football program has enjoyed such a fast rise in the Football Championship Subdivision that it's ready for an even higher step.
ODU announced on Thursday that it will move to Football Bowl Subdivision and join Conference USA in all sports beginning with the 2013-14 school year.
In giving Conference USA a 14th member for 2013-14, the Monarchs will leave the Colonial Athletic Association.
Football was the driving force in the decision. This fall, ODU's football program will play its fourth season as a startup program and second in the CAA.
The Monarchs won't be eligible for the C-USA football championship until 2015.
"While the university was not actively seeking a change, recent events necessitated an earlier consideration of our future, and in particular, for our football program," ODU president John R. Broderick said in a statement. "C-USA's invitation provided the right opportunity at the right time to reclassify our football program and broaden the national footprint of our athletic program."
ODU football has been wildly successful in its first three seasons under head coach Bobby Wilder. The Monarchs have a 27-8 record in that time, and tied for second place in the CAA and reached the second round of the FCS playoffs last year.
Broderick thanked the CAA and said he would like to continue playing non- conference games against member schools.
However, the opportunity to take the football program to the FBS was too good for the Monarchs to pass up.
"As we moved through this process, I was encouraged by the widespread and broad-based support we received from all constituencies, both within and outside the ODU community, for a possible move to the C-USA," Broderick said. "Similar to the enthusiasm we experienced when we started football, we have already received commitments of more than $3 million in private support for the move, and our fundraising will continue through the summer. This philanthropic support enables us to join Conference USA without increasing student fees, which was a critical factor for the board and me."
Five schools -- Florida International, Louisiana Tech, North Carolina- Charlotte, North Texas and Texas-San Antonio -- recently finalized membership agreements to join Conference USA. Charlotte, like ODU, won't be eligible for the football title until 2015.
The conference's other members for the 2013-14 school will be Alabama- Birmingham, East Carolina, Marshall, Rice, Southern Mississippi, Tulane, Tulsa and UTEP.
Current C-USA members Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF are leaving for the Big East Conference in 2013.