Georgia State joins Sun Belt Conference - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Georgia State joins Sun Belt Conference

Atlanta (WTVM) - Georgia State University is going back to its roots, and will compete in the Sun Belt Conference in all varsity sports starting July, 2013.

Sun Belt Conference President and Troy University Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. made the formal invitation today at the Georgia Dome.  "On behalf of the presidents and chancellors of the member institutions of the Sun Belt Conference, I am pleased to welcome Georgia State University home to the league that it helped start in 1976," said Hawkins.  "The Sun Belt Conference has never been stronger athletically, academically or financially, and today we took action that makes us even stronger."

Georgia State was a charter member of the Sun Belt Conference in 1976. They joined the Trans America Athletic Conference in 1984, which later became the Atlantic Sun Conference. In 2005 they moved to the Colonial Athletic Association, where they currently compete.

The move to the Sun Belt is both financially and geographically motivated. By joining the Sun Belt, the newly created Georgia State football program step up to the FBS level and be eligible for bowl competition and therefore bowl revenue.  The conference made $1,750,000 this past season with three schools competing in bowl games. Sun Belt teams have won 50 percent of their bowl games since 2005, better than five other FBS conferences.

GSU has repeatedly expressed frustration with the time and travel expenses surrounding conference play in the CAA. Teams in the CAA stretch from Atlanta to as far north as Boston and Maine. The Sun Belt on the other hand, has members only in the South, from Texas to Florida. The geographical rivals increase the potential for a more enthusiastic fan base.

With the addition of the Panthers, the Sun Belt Conference will have 11 football member schools, 12 if South Alabama stays on track to launch their football program in 2013. Georgia State will play a Sun Belt schedule in football in 2013 and will be eligible for the postseason and the conference championship in 2014.

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