(Sports Network) - Appalachian State and Georgia Southern University announced
on Wednesday they will rise to the Football Bowl Subdivision in moving from
the Southern Conference to the Sun Belt Conference effective July 1, 2014.
They will leave the Football Championship Subdivision as two of the most
successful programs in history, with Georgia Southern holding a record six
national titles and Appalachian State ranking third with three, in addition to
both being annual contenders for SoCon championships.
Although both football programs will keep their 2013 schedules intact, they
will go above the FCS scholarship limit of 63 and become ineligible for the
SoCon title and a national playoff berth.
They will begin playing Sun Belt games and be revenue-sharing members
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, they will become full
members of the conference and be bowl eligible.
The Sun Belt is slated to have 12 full-time members when Appalachian State and
Georgia Southern become members for the 2014-15 academic year, joining
Arkansas-Little Rock, Arkansas State, Georgia State, Louisiana-Lafayette,
Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Texas-Arlington, Texas State, Troy and
Western Kentucky. All but Arkansas-Little Rock and Texas-Arlington will field
FBS football programs, but Idaho and New Mexico State will join the conference
as associate members in football.
"This is a milestone day for Georgia Southern University, and we are very
excited to be joining the Sun Belt conference," Georgia Southern president
Brooks Keel told a standing-room-only crowd in the Williams Center during the
"This decision was made with the long-term interest of our university in
mind," Keel continued. "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."
Appalachian State athletic director Charlie Cobb said at an on-campus news
conference, "I want to stress the fact that today is a starting point for us.
I'd like to repeat that, today is a starting point. If anyone thinks today's
announcement is a culmination moment for Appalachian, please rest assured that
the heavy lifting starts today.
"Quite frankly, our easier course of action was to stay with the status quo.
However, and I say this with tremendous respect and gratitude for our past and
present colleagues in the Southern Conference, when I say the status quo was
not acceptable for Appalachian and it doesn't embrace the Appalachian spirit,
whether it's in academics, athletics or the arts."
Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson visited both campuses to formally
accept the invitations from the schools.
ASU and GSU will join the Sun Belt in all sports except men's soccer in
2014-15. The Sun Belt does not sponsor men's soccer, so the two schools will
have to find another conference home for their teams.
Southern Conference commissioner John Iamarino, in a statement from the
conference, said, "While we're disappointed to be losing Appalachian State and
Georgia Southern, the Southern Conference cannot provide the platform their
football programs are seeking. We'll wish them well when they depart.
"Our membership discussions with our presidents, chancellors and athletic
directors will continue as they have for the past 18 months and figure to be
more focused on specific options with this most recent development. There are
quality institutions interested in speaking with us regarding conference
membership, and our options remain solid."
As the SoCon pursues expansion, its membership would stand at nine core
members with Chattanooga, Davidson, Elon, Furman, North Carolina-Greensboro,
Samford, The Citadel, Western Carolina and Wofford. All but Davidson and UNCG
have football programs.
The Sports Network