NEW ORLEANS, La. (SUN BELT) - Georgia Southern has accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference and will become a member in all sports beginning July 1, 2014. The conference office announced the addition on Wednesday morning.
"Georgia Southern University has a rich history in athletics dating back to 1909 and has won six football national championships at the FCS level, so it brings a winning tradition to the Sun Belt Conference," said Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor of Troy University and President of the Sun Belt Conference Executive Committee. "More important, GSU is an outstanding public institution that is a good fit for our league-academically, athletically and geographically."
Georgia Southern brings with it a highly successfully football program that will begin the process of transitioning to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) immediately. The 2014 Sun Belt football season will mark the debut of the Eagles in the league schedule and standings. Additionally, the Eagles will be able to compete for the league championship in football for the 2014 season. They will first be eligible to compete in a spot for a postseason bowl game come the 2015 season.
"This is a milestone day for Georgia Southern University and we are very excited to be joining the Sun Belt Conference," said Georgia Southern President Dr. Brooks A. Keel. "This decision was made with the long-term interest of our University in mind. The Sun Belt will provide our student-athletes with an outstanding opportunity to compete at the highest level and we are excited to contribute to the conference's success both on and off the field. I am equally excited about the opportunity that it will provide Georgia Southern and the more than 75,000 alumni that make up the Eagle Nation."
During the past decade, Georgia Southern has shown growth in size and scope that has led to recognition by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top ten most popular universities in the nation. The University offers 112 degree programs at the baccalaureate, master's and doctoral levels through eight colleges, as well as a variety of online classes in business, education, liberal arts, science, technology and healthcare, including an array of advanced degree programs.
This past season, the Eagles reached the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) semifinals for the second-straight year in 2012, nearly reaching the national championship game for the ninth time. The Eagles finished 11-3 - the most wins for the program in a single season since 2002. Georgia Southern has won six total FCS National Championships.
"There is no question that Georgia Southern helps strengthen our conference," said Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson. "This is a program with strong athletic teams, a loyal fan base and administrators dedicated to higher learning. Georgia Southern will be a great Sun Belt member."
The Sun Belt Conference will contest the 2013 football season with eight members - Arkansas State, Georgia State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Texas State, Troy and Western Kentucky University. UALR and UT Arlington compete as non-football members.