Chicago State announced it will join the Western Athletic Conference in 2013, following Grand Canyon University, Seattle and Cal-Bakersfield to the reformed seven-member Division I conference.
The WAC lost its status as a Football Bowl Subdivision conference for 2013, stung by a mass exodus which includes Fresno State and Boise State, formerly two of that league's top powers.
But the WAC said in a press release that it retains Division I standing in all other sports, even if its makeup is largely unrecognizable.
Chicago State participated in the Great West Conference along with Utah Valley State, another new WAC member, and had recently been an independent.
Conferences are required to have a minimum of seven members to retain automatic qualifying berths for the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments.
Chicago State coach Tracy Dildy told ESPN the move was "huge for us."
"It puts us in a legit conference. It now levels the playing field as far as recruiting and everything," Dildy said. "We now get to offer everything everyone else does -- a chance for an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. People have been killing us on that in recruiting. We can get and recruit a different kind of student-athlete."