230901 missouri state helmet [1296x729]
230901 missouri state helmet [1296x729] (Credit: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

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Missouri State will move up to the highest tier of Division I college football and join Conference USA in 2025, the league announced Friday.

Missouri State will become the 12th full member of CUSA and the third school -- along with Kennesaw State this season and Delaware in 2025 -- to move up from the FCS to the FBS and join the league over the next two seasons.

A longtime member of the Missouri Valley Conference, Missouri State has been competing in FCS/I-AA since 1981. The Bears have reached the NCAA playoffs four times, most recently in 2020 and 2021 under then-coach Bobby Petrino.

"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," Conference USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said.

Conference USA lost six members to the American Athletic Conference and have rebuilt by adding former independents such as Liberty and New Mexico State and former FCS schools Sam Houston State and Jacksonville State last year.

The rest of Conference USA includes Louisiana Tech, Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee State, UTEP and Florida International.