Sun Belt adds four new members | The game

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The Sun Belt Conference announced on Wednesday that it now has a title sponsor for the league football championship game. — Photo courtesy of Sun Belt Conference

The sun shone on a new Sun Belt conference on Friday as they welcomed four new members to bring the league to 14 members in major sports.

James Madison, Old Dominion, Marshall and southern Mississippi will join an already packed G5 conference, with countries including Louisiana, App State and Coastal Carolina.

“We are thrilled to officially welcome James Madison, Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss as members of the Sun Belt Conference,” said Commissioner Keith Gill. “This 14-member expansion—and the regional rivalries it produces—makes the 2022-23 academic year one of the most anticipated in Sun Belt history and signals the bright future that awaits the conference.”

The Sun Belt was founded in 1976 and began sponsoring a football league in 2001. The league also sponsors 18 NCAA-recognized sports.

Here is a breakdown of each of the four new schools.

JAMES MADISON

JMU was founded in 1908 and is located in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The Dukes have a student population of over 22,000 students. The school holds four NCAA national titles – two in FCS football (2004,2016), one in field hockey (1994) and one in women’s lacrosse (2018).

The football program has been one of their most successful, appearing in the FCS playoffs 18 times in each of the last eight seasons. JMU’s softball team has also had recent successes, including a Cinderella run in Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series in 2021.


Miss SOUTH

The Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles are owned by a Tier 1 research university in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, founded in 1910. The student body numbers more than 14,000 students and the school hosts five NCAA national championships: two in Division II football (1958 and 1962) as well as three titles in athletics. In football, the Eagles have appeared in 26 bowl games all-time.

Men’s basketball won the NIT in 1987, and Southern Miss also enjoyed great success on the court, with baseball (2009) and softball (1999,2000) appearing in the College World Series.


MARSHAL

Marshall University was founded in 1837 and is located in Huntington, West Virginia. The school has a population of 13,000 and hosts three NCAA national championships: one in football (2020) and two in FCS football (1992 and 1996).

Football has appeared in 18 bowling games, including 12-5 since moving to FBS in 1997.


FORMER DOMINION

Old Dominion was founded in 1930 and is located in Norfolk, Virginia. The student population on campus is over 24,000 and the school hosts 28 national team championships: 15 in sailing, nine in field hockey, and four in women’s (3) and men’s (1) basketball. The football program has appeared in two bowl games – winning the 2016 Bahamas Bowl and dropping out of the 2021 Myrtle Beach Bowl.

ODU was once a member of Sun Belt and had great success in the conference from 1982-1991. Men’s basketball won two conference titles, appeared in the NCAA Tournament three times and played in the NIT three times. Women’s basketball has won five conference championships and appeared in eight NCAA tournaments, with the 1985 team winning the national title. Men’s soccer at ODU won three conference titles in 1985, 1987, and 1989. Finally, Monarch baseball won the Sun Belt in 1985 after going 50-11 and appearing in two NCAA tournaments.

The Sun Belt’s sports year kicks off with Sun Belt Football Media Days in New Orleans on July 26-27 at the Sheraton Hotel.


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