Ga. Southern is moving to Sun Belt
By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer
Georgia Southern announced Wednesday it is leaving the Southern Conference to join the Sun Belt Conference in 2014.
Georgia Southern’s football team, which has been dominant at the FCS level, will make the move up to the FBS level.
The Eagles football team will begin playing Sun Belt games and will be a revenue sharing member of the conference in 2014 and eligible for the Sun Belt conference title, but will not be eligible to play in a bowl game. In 2015, Georgia Southern will become a full member of the conference and be bowl eligible.
The Eagles have won 10 Southern Conference titles and a record six FCS national championships since 1985.
The Eagles’ football schedule for 2013 will not change. However, Georgia Southern won’t be eligible for the FCS playoffs this season.
Georgia Southern President Brooks Keel called it a “milestone day” during a press conference Wednesday on campus.
“This decision was made with the long-term interest of our University in mind,” Keel said. “The Sun Belt will provide our student athletes with an outstanding opportunity to compete at a 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.”
Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson visited Georgia Southern Wednesday to welcome the Eagles as President Keel formally accepted the Sun Belt invitation.
“We have built our reputation around a focus on the student, and this move will allow us to partner to provide our student athletes with the opportunity to compete on a national stage,” said Georgia Southern athletics director Tom Kleinlein.
The move to FBS comes after 65 percent of Georgia Southern University students voted to pay $75 a semester to support the move to a new level of competition. That fee will be collected starting in the fall.
Ground will also be broken in a few weeks to add 6,300 additional seats to Allen E. Paulson Stadium and build a new Football Operations Center in the east end zone.
With the exception of men’s soccer, all other Georgia Southern teams will begin Sun Belt play in 2014 and eligible for the conference championship. Since the Sun Belt does not field a men’s soccer program, Georgia Southern is negotiating to find a conference home for the team.