Conference USA expanding to add Missouri State in 2025

Missouri State is making the move to Conference USA in 2025, the conference announced Friday.

The Bears accepted an invitation and will move within the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision as a full-league member of CUSA for the first time effective July 1, 2025.

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“We are so excited for the opportunities that CUSA membership will bring to our university, our student-athletes, our coaches and our fans,” Missouri State athletics director Kyle Moats stated in a release. “This move represents a transition to a national brand and a platform that will help raise the profile of Missouri State University and the city of Springfield. The steps we have taken over the past 15 years to invest in a successful broad-based athletics program have prepared us for this long-awaited moment.”

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Missouri State had been a member of the Missouri Valley Conference, where it will play one final season this fall, since 1990. The Bears have won 10 conference championships and made four appearances in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs most recently in 2021.

According to a release, Missouri State’s anticipated increase in revenue from going to an FBS conference “will ultimately make the move a budget-neutral transition.”

According to Lyndal Scranton of the Springfield Daily Citizen, retiring Missouri State president Clif Smart said the school received a $5 million commitment from a private individual to help with some of the costs for the move. Other costs include “$2.5 million paid over four years to join Conference USA.”

More financial resources for student-athletes and travel upgrades played “significant factors” in the school’s decision to make the move, according to a release. Short-term and long-term upgrades to the Bears’ home of Plaster Stadium were also factors, according to the Springfield Daily Citizen.

“This move will absolutely open doors for us,” Moats stated. “For our student-athletes, they will have less bus travel and more flights which will get them back to campus in a safer and more-timely manner. They will also have more financial resources at their disposal for cost of attendance, Alston funds, and a more strategic presence in the name, image and likeness (NIL) space.”

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Missouri State is already an affiliate member in CUSA in beach volleyball. The Bears will soon compete in football as well as other sports such as baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, and volleyball in addition to seven more.

Since moving to the FBS and thus requiring 22 additional football scholarships, Missouri State announced it will add STUNT and acrobatics and tumbling to its women’s athletics programs in 2024-25.

CUSA will expand to 12 teams in 2025 as Missouri State will join Delaware from the Coastal Athletic Association in the FCS. The Bears will join a new conference including defending champion Liberty as well as New Mexico State and Jacksonville State among others.

“We are extremely excited to welcome Missouri State University as the 12th member of Conference USA,” CUSA Commissioner Judy MacLeod stated in a release. “The institution boasts a great tradition in athletics and academics that will strengthen and further position our membership for long term success in the national landscape.  We look forward to our partnership with President Clif Smart, incoming President Dr. Biff Williams, Director of Athletics Kyle Moats, and their entire leadership team.”