Old Dominion to join Sun Belt Conference

By Kevin Kelley -

The Old Dominion Monarchs have accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference, it was announced on Wednesday.

Old Dominion, currently a member of Conference USA, will enter the Sun Belt Conference no later than July 1, 2023, according to the announcement.

“We are thrilled to welcome Old Dominion University to the Sun Belt,” Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Keith Gill said. “ODU brings a host of strengths to our conference. They have comprehensive success. They’ve collected many championships. They will have natural rivals in our footprint. I am grateful to President Dr. Brian Hemphill and Athletics Director Dr. Camden Wood Selig for their leadership during this process. I’d also like to thank the CEOs and athletic directors of our current member institutions for their efforts as we continue our discussions around adding new members.”

Old Dominion moved up to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and joined Conference USA in 2014. The Monarchs are currently led by head coach Ricky Rahne.

“Amid national realignment discussions, our presidents and chancellors have expressed confidence in the SBC leadership and our member configuration (especially with the recent addition of Southern Miss),” said Dr. Kelly Damphousse, Chancellor at Arkansas State University and President of the SBC Board of Directors. “As I told President Hemphill when we met Monday, the SBC CEOs believe that Old Dominion University mirrors our conference’s athletics and academic missions, while also capitalizing on regionality goals. He and I also discussed our shared desire to increase research and academic partnerships among our SBC universities. My colleagues and I look forward to welcoming President Hemphill and his ODU faculty, staff, and students to the Sun Belt Conference.”

“On behalf of our student-athletes, coaches and athletic administration, I want to express our gratitude to Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Keith Gill and the entire league leadership for this wonderful opportunity to join the Sun Belt Conference with all of its current momentum and potential,” ODU Director of Athletics Dr. Wood Selig said. “While C-USA has proven to be an excellent home for ODU athletics during our transition from FCS to FBS, and we thank the C-USA membership and leadership for such an outstanding partnership, the chance to enhance the overall athletics experience for the student-athletes, fans and alumni of ODU in the SBC with regional rivalries represents the perfect opportunity for the continued growth and evolution of ODU athletic programs in our pursuit of national prominence.”

On Tuesday, the Sun Belt officially announced the addition of the Southern Miss Golden Eagles to the conference, also no later than July 1, 2023. Old Dominion and Southern Miss will join Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Louisiana, ULM, South Alabama, Texas State, and Troy.

Two other schools — Marshall of Conference USA and James Madison of the FCS — are also expected to apply for acceptance into the Sun Belt Conference. That would give the Sun Belt a total of 14 football-playing schools.

Future Old Dominion Football Schedules

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Comments (15)

So 7 and soon to be 5 schools left in C-USA: FIU, MTSU, WKU, LT, UTEP.

Does C-USA poach some existing Sun Belt schools like Texas State and Arkansas State, and maybe Jacksonville State from FCS? Or does C-USA simply dissolve, and the remaining 5 members find other conferences: FIU & LT to the Sun Belt Megaconference, UTEP to the MWC, and WKU and MTSU to the MAC?

UTEP could rejoin the WAC.

The other schools could go to the ASUN, for FIU it would be a return, they were previously members from 1990-98.

Both are starting FCS leagues, with eyes on FBS.

The five schools could keep C-USA in operation as a football-only league, with the addition of Liberty and New Mexico State, until the ASUN and WAC move up.

That would make sense actually. This would be similar to the Great West Conference, which was a FCS football-only league in the 2000s, and then was a multi-sport league for a few years for schools that just came up from D2. So maybe, WKU, MTSU, and FIU could join the A-Sun as non-football members, then maybe LT to the Southland as a non-football member, and UTEP to the WAC, again as a non-football member.

Then this new C-USA football only league would have: WKU, MTSU, FIU, LT, UTEP, and perhaps add NMSU, Liberty, and UConn.

The idea was for C-USA to operate as a football-only conference until the ASUN and WAC move up. They want to do it. Once they do, C-USA is done for football as well.

I feel bad for Conference USA—-looks like it is done. Ya wish it would stop or at the very least, finalize for good.

Conference realignment is bound to result in the death of one conference. Initially it was going to be the Big XII, then the American. Now it looks like Conference-USA. I hope the remaining 5 find compatible homes.

Prediction:
FIU: A-Sun (FBS independent)
MTSU & WKU: MAC
L-Tech: Southland or WAC (FBS independent in both situations)
UTEP: WAC (FBS independent) or MWC

I would hope La. Tech joins the SunBelt, making three FBS teams from Louisiana in the Conference.

Still surprised the MAC has been quite in all of this. Marshall is across the Ohio river from Ohio, and was a MAC member until 1968. They have not expanded or been raided this time.