The Southern Miss Golden Eagles have accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference, it was announced on Tuesday.
Southern Miss, currently a member of Conference USA, will become members of the Sun Belt Conference no later than July 1, 2023, according to the announcement.
“This is a big day for our conference,” said Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Keith Gill. “We are thrilled to welcome The University of Southern Mississippi to the Sun Belt. Southern Miss brings a host of strengths to our conference. They are competitive across all of their sports, have a strong brand and are supported by a great fan base. The electric atmosphere surrounding their games is a tradition we are proud to now be a part of. I am grateful to President Dr. Rodney D. Bennett and Athletics Director Jeremy McClain 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.”
The addition of Southern Miss will give the Sun Belt a total of 11 football-playing schools. The Golden Eagles will join Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Louisiana, ULM, South Alabama, Texas State, and Troy.
“When national realignment discussions began, our presidents and chancellors expressed confidence in the current SBC configuration, but also defined the parameters for potential new members,” said Dr. Kelly Damphousse, Arkansas State President & Chair of Sun Belt Executive Committee. “Our goal was to only add schools that added value, that fit geographically, and that mirrored our athletics and academic missions. Southern Miss perfectly matched those parameters, and my colleagues look forward to welcoming President Bennett and his colleagues to the Sun Belt Conference.”
Southern Miss was an original member of Conference USA since the league’s inception in 1995. The Golden Eagles claimed a share of the Conference USA championship in 1996 and won the title outright in 1997, 1999, 2003, and 2011.
“Today is a great day for Southern Miss,” said Jeremy McClain, Southern Miss Director of Athletics. “I want to thank Commissioner Gill and the Board of Directors within the Sun Belt for their faith in our institution and our ability to add value to the conference. We are excited about adding our rich tradition of success and passionate fan base to a conference that values those attributes, and look forward to working together to continue to elevate the Sun Belt on the national stage.”
Three other schools — Old Dominion and Marshall of Conference USA and James Madison of the FCS — are also expected to apply for acceptance into the Sun Belt Conference in the coming days. That would give the Sun Belt a total of 14 football-playing schools.