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ULM all smiles over move
Sun Belt just latest in school resurgence
Scott Beder

July 17, 2004

Sun Belt schools (with city location)
-- Arkansas State (Jonesboro)
-- Arkansas-Little Rock
-- Denver
-- Florida International (Miami)
-- Idaho (Moscow)*
-- Louisiana-Lafayette
-- Middle Tennessee (Murfreesboro)
-- New Mexico State (Las Cruces)
-- New Orleans
-- North Texas (Denton)
-- South Alabama (Mobile)
-- Troy State (Troy, Ala.)**
-- Utah State (Logan)*
-- Western Kentucky (Bowling Green)


* - leaving after 2004 football season

** - joining SBC football this season;
joining in all sports starting 2005-06

Note: Florida Atlantic will be full member starting 2006-07; in football 2005The past few years haven't brought much good news for Louisiana-Monroe athletic fans, but the tide seems to be turning.

On Friday, ULM announced that it had accepted an invitation to become a full member of the Sun Belt Conference, joining its football program, which has been part of the league since 2001.

The formal announcement of the move to the Sun Belt - on the heels of the recent hiring of new athletics director Bobby Staub - has left Indians fans feeling optimistic.

"I think this is gigantic,' said long-time supporter James Mock. "(The news) is a lot more exciting than it has been."

ULM second-year football coach Charlie Weatherbie said the move is just another positive step in a university-wide renaissance directed by school president Jim Cofer.

"You are either moving forward or you are not, and we are moving forward," Weatherbie said. "Everything is going in the right direction. Timing is everything, and at ULM, the timing is right."

Outgoing athletics director Bruce Hanks, who is credited with digging the athletic department out of debt, said of Friday's announcement: "This is big. This is a very big deal."

The move, which won't go into effect until July 1, 2006, brings all 17 of ULM's varsity sports under one umbrella and ends a long association with the Southland Conference.

"I've said this many times that athletic success and success in recruiting can't be divorced from the university as a whole,' said Bob Anderson, the retired legendary sports information director at ULM and the author of a book chronicling Indian athletics. "Bad news, declining enrollment affect recruitment for athletics, the band, everything. But the things going on now are very positive and now that is crossing over into athletics."

The announcement came on the seventh floor of the ULM library. When President Jim Cofer officially accepted the invitation extended by Sun Belt Commissioner Wright Waters, the standing room-only crowd gave a standing ovation as Cofer donned a Sun Belt cap, then handed a ULM shirt - with a Sun Belt logo - to Waters.

"No question this is a very big positive for the athletic department," ULM men's basketball coach Mike Vining said. "It's something that needed to be done. Every step we've made, going way back, has been a move forward starting with the Trans America Conference and then the Southland."

The move should create instant rivalries with regional members such as Louisiana-Lafayette, New Orleans, Arkansas State and Arkansas-Little Rock, which in turn should create increased fan interest.

"I think this fits this school perfectly," Mock said. "We're 500 miles from nine schools. It's going to elevate the fan interest. This makes our (football) move to I-A complete."


┬ęThe News-Star
July 17, 2004
ULM moves all sports to Sun Belt Conference
Nick Deriso
nderiso@thenewsstar.com

July 17, 2004

By Nick Deriso

nderiso@thenewsstar.com

The University of Louisiana at Monroe accepted an invitation for full membership in the Sun Belt Conference on Friday.

The wonder was how much everyone talked about academics.

"We wanted somebody who academically applied," said SBC commissioner Wright Waters, before adding that athletics and geographic location also played a role in the decision.

ULM President Jim Cofer echoed that.

"A major part of the selection process was making sure that we fit academically," he said. "What they took notice of was a new academic reputation, integrity and rigor. We've pushed for that.

"We talked a good bit about graduation rates and what we're doing as an academic institution. In fact, my discussions with the Sun Belt presidents were mainly on the academic side."

Cofer said the Monroe university has a graduation rate of 55 percent among athletes - 26 percent higher than the entire student body.

ULM, a founding football member of the Division I-A Sun Belt, also sponsors women's swimming and diving in the SBC. But the university had remained a member of Division I-AA's Southland Conference in all other sports.

The decision to switch to a single affiliation was keyed by a report presented in June to the University of Louisiana System by Carr Sports Associates, which recommended that the Indians join the Sun Belt in all sports.

"Bill Carr came in and gave an objective report," Cofer said. "The decision was clear: He said you've got to raise a million dollars whether ULM chooses membership in the Southland or the Sun Belt. Take the upside of a I-A conference," he said.

A group of more than 100 supporters, coaches and alumni was on hand to cheer the invitation. Former athletics director Bruce Hanks and Indian Athletic Foundation President-elect Scott McDonald were among those who spoke in support of the move.

A major selling point is the regional scope of the Sun Belt, which includes nine universities within 525 miles of Monroe.

"They will all be within driving distance for football games and baseball series," Waters said. "ULM is almost in the middle of the league, which we think enhances their ability to create rivalries and fan interest. Athletically, the sports match up almost identically. We offer 19 championships - and ULM sponsors 17 of those sports."

The Indians will join as a full member in 2006. The two-year waiting period was needed so ULM could avoid a buyout fee of $250,000 to leave the Southland. Cofer said the time would also be used to evaluate and improve the programs and to raise money.

"In some sports, we think they will come in and compete in right away," Waters said. "There's no reason, for instance, that the Indians' baseball team won't compete the day they walk in the door.

"Women's basketball is another. There are other sports that might take more time, but that's true of any school."

Cofer added that ULM's various athletics programs would likely continue playing former Southland rivals in non-conference games.

The Sun Belt sent a team of evaluators to the university last week, and its presidents voted to offer full membership on Monday.
Graybeard - Thanks for taking the moderator post.

Need to get a better resolution logo for your posts.

Why not try just the Indian "L". This is what the university used on the latest season ticket mailing.

Here is the URL I picked it up from. I am sure Swamp can get it added to the pick list.

<a href='http://www.arkansasfire.net/louisiana/Licon2.gif' target='_blank'>http://www.arkansasfire.net/louisiana/Licon2.gif</a>
LouisianaFan Wrote:Here is the URL I picked it up from. I am sure Swamp can get it added to the pick list.

<a href='http://www.arkansasfire.net/louisiana/Licon2.gif' target='_blank'>http://www.arkansasfire.net/louisiana/Licon2.gif</a>
I would if I could :D Most of us who have a avatar have one loaded on another website like you have done.
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