Middle Tennessee State and Florida Atlantic will exit the Sun Belt Conference one year earlier than planned to join Conference USA in July. Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky confirmed the move, which was not supposed to take place until 2014, on Tuesday. "We are very pleased to welcome Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic to Conference USA next season," Banowsky said in a statement. "We look forward to supporting a 16-member league, with 14 football teams competing for Conference USA in 2013." As part of the deal, the two schools will pay a $700,000 buyout to leave a year early, Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson said Tuesday. The Sun Belt set a Feb. 1 date for a decision by Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic in order to set the conference's 2013 football schedule, USA Today reported. The two new members will expand Conference USA to 14 football schools next season. Joining Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic will be Florida International, Louisiana Tech, North Texas and Texas-San Antonio. The six additions will offset the loss of SMU, Houston, Central Florida and Memphis to the Big East next season. In 2014, Conference USA members East Carolina and Tulane will depart for the Big East. "While we have been proud members of the Sun Belt Conference, it was felt that it was in the best interest of the university, our student-athletes and supporters to accelerate our move to Conference USA," Middle Tennessee State president Sidney McPhee said.
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