Denver Joins Sun Belt Conference
DENVER (AP) _ The University of Denver, taking another step toward full NCAA Division I status, has accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference, effective July 1, 1999.
Denver, which currently competes at the Division I level in hockey and women’s gymnastics, will elevate its other 15 sports to Division I this summer.
Seven of the Pioneers’ existing sports will participate in the conference: men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, men’s and women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s golf. DU will add men’s and women’s cross country to the list of conference sports in which the school will participate, bringing the university’s total number of varsity sports to 19.
The Sun Belt Conference, headquartered in Metairie, La., will have eight members for the 1998-99 season: Arkansas-Little Rock, Arkansas State, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, New Orleans, South Alabama, Southwestern Louisiana and Western Kentucky. DU will be the Sun Belt’s ninth member when it formally joins the league in the fall of 1999.
Sun Belt commissioner Craig Thompson, noting that Florida International became the conference’s eighth member just two weeks ago, said the league eventually hopes to expand to 12 members, six of whom would play football, but not DU.
The DU women’s basketball team joins one of the strongest women’s basketball conferences in the country. Three Sun Belt teams finished in the top 20 last season, and Louisiana Tech was the national runnerup.
DU currently ranks ninth among all NCAA member institutions with 21 national titles _ 19 on the Division I level, primarily in hockey and skiing.