University of New Orleans balks on bolting from D-I, will join the Southland

Forced to the brink of Division I existence, it now seems that the University of New Orleans won't be out of the NCAA tournament picture after all.

The school will join the Southland Conference in 2013-14.

In 2010 the school was forced out of its 19-year affiliation with the Sun Belt due to money issues. A lot of that stemmed from damages to the school and city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. So it became an independent, and like the Centenary's switch to D-III, a divisional demotion seemed imminent.

The school applied for Division II and Division III accreditation.

Now, a late coup for the school. Due to recent hires -- president Peter Fos and athletic director Derek Morel -- the school was able to get its affairs in order, recalibrate its vision and ability on playing athletics at the D-I level and now it can remain in the thick of the great mid-major chase toward an NCAA tournament bid every year. 

UNO will go one more year as an independent before joining a newly shaped Southland, which is also bringing on Houston Baptist and Incarnate Word. Reports state Abilene Christian could make it a 14-team league in the next three years.

This seems quite positive for the Privateers -- at least from the outside. But this also means the past few years of independence cost the program solid ground. Most players transfers out of the school once it became independent, and even the former head coach, Joe Pasternack (now an assistant at Arizona), left on what was seen as a sinking ship.

To get an idea of the mood and reality of the program, you should really read this piece from Dana O'Neil in early 2010. To say things were once dire at UNO is underselling it. And to get this kind of turnaround is nothing short of remarkable. The Privateers' move to just barely swerve off the exit ramp and keep on the highway won't make much of a ripple in the national scheme of college basketball, but it's downright huge for that school and that city.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his eighth season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics,... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories