By NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer
The University of Delaware is joining Conference USA as a full member starting in 2025, the league’s latest expansion with a school moving up from Division I college football’s second tier to the Bowl Subdivision.
The school and league announced the move Tuesday.
“Adding the University of Delaware is a tremendous opportunity for Conference USA as we strategically position ourselves for continued success,” Commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a statement. “We are excited to add the state’s flagship university with its rich history in athletics and academics.”
After being raided by the American Athletic Conference and the Sun Belt the past two years, Conference USA re-constituted in 2023 as a nine-team league, including former Championship Subdivision schools Sam Houston State and Jacksonville State.
Delaware has a solid football history, having produced Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco and 2002 NFL MVP Rich Gannon. Two-time WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne played there as well.
“The opportunity to join Conference USA is a very proud moment for our entire university,” athletic director Chrissi Rawak said. “With this step forward, we will continue to offer an incredible student-athlete experience and elevate the visibility of all that is remarkable about UD.”
The Blue Hens currently play in the Coastal Athletic Association. The CAA, which changed its name earlier this year from the Colonial Athletic Association, had 15 teams in football this season. The league lost James Madison after the 2021 season, and the Dukes’ transition to the FBS has gone so well they reached the AP Top 25 this year.
UMass, Old Dominion and Georgia State are a few other former CAA programs that now play in the FBS.
Delaware will compete in Conference USA in baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, cross-country, football, men’s and women’s golf, women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, track and field, and volleyball. The school said there would be more information in the months ahead about where its other programs will compete. The Blue Hens reached the NCAA Tournament in men’s lacrosse last season and nearly upset top-seeded Duke.
Delaware’s most recent FCS football title came in 2003, and it has reached the championship game twice since then. The Blue Hens beat Lafayette last weekend in the FCS playoffs. Coach Ryan Carty’s team plays at Montana in the second round this weekend.
Delaware’s varsity programs will stay in the CAA through the 2024-25 season, and all of them except football will remain eligible to compete for conference championships and the NCAA postseason. Football is not eligible for a conference title or the FCS playoffs once its transition to the FBS begins after this season.
The school said its 2024 football team will play an FCS schedule. It will be in Conference USA the following year, but won’t be eligible to play in the league championship game until 2026.
The football team plays at 22,000-seat Delaware Stadium.
“We are confident that we have the infrastructure in place at UD to compete with the very best in college football and simultaneously witness the growth of our other intercollegiate programs in the department,” Rawak said. “UD Athletics continues to ascend, and Blue Hen football is prepared to take the next step and lead the way.”
FBS football requires extra scholarships, and with gender equity in mind, Delaware said it will be adding another women’s varsity sport that will be announced later.
AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.
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