Two years ago, the University of New Orleans athletic program left the Sun Belt Conference to pursue a move to Division III, and later decided to set its sights on D-II. In March, the school announced it would remain in Division I, and all that remained was to find a new conference, because UNO was unaffiliated since exiting the Sun Belt.
On Thursday, the Privateers and the Southland Conference announced that UNO will join the SLC, effective July 1, 2013. Earlier in the week, the Southland extended invitations to Abilene (Texas) Christian and Incarnate Word (Texas), which would need to reclassify as Division I institutions.
UNO baseball will play a full Southland schedule and be eligible for the conference tournament in its first season in 2014.
"This is an exciting day for the student-athletes, fans and the University," UNO baseball coach Bruce Peddie said. "Athletics at the Division I level will generate interest, garner local exposure and help increase admissions. I am very excited for the student-athletes and the fans that have supported all of our programs for years. I greatly appreciate the confidence that President (Peter) Fos and (athletics director) Derek Morel have shown us and look forward to bringing back the fans to the Lakefront."
The Privateers have a proud baseball tradition, which includes 14 trips to regionals and an appearance in the 1984 College World Series under coach Ron Maestri. New Orleans went to regionals as recently as 2007 and '08 under coach Tom Walter, now at Wake Forest.
UNO's baseball facility, Ron Maestri Field, is undergoing a major renovation that will add new grandstand seating and a press box.
The Southland will have a dramatically new look in future seasons. Oral Roberts joins the league this year, while Houston Baptist, Incarnate Word and UNO join next year. If Abilene Christian accepts its invitation as expected, it will also join the Southland in 2013 as it begins the reclassification process. Those gains help offset the losses of Texas State, Texas-Arlington and Texas-San Antonio.
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