Southern Miss to join Sun Belt Conference
Southern Miss is reportedly leaving Conference USA for greener pastures in the Sun Belt Conference.
USM and the Sun Belt are expected to announce the move at a joint press conference tomorrow afternoon featuring League Commissioner Keith Gill and USM President Dr. Rodney Bennett and AD Jeremy McClain.
As first reported by the Action Network, Southern Miss accepted its invitation to the SBC on Friday and will join the league in the fall of 2023.
Fellow C-USA institutions Marshall and Old Dominion as well as FCS James Madison are also expected to find a new home in the Sun Belt, solidifying a 14-team conference.
That would leave C-USA with just five schools, having already lost Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB, and UTSA to the American Athletic Conference last week.
A charter member of C-USA in 1995, USM to the Sun Belt certainly makes sense, saving $400,000 annually on travel according to Sports Illustrated.
Conference USA Commissioner Judy Macleod issuing a statement on Friday saying: “We have a strong core of members to build around and are continuing to work to strengthen our league. There are several institutions interested in joining Conference USA, both across FBS and FCS. We will take the necessary time to add future members that will be the best fit from an athletic and academic standpoint and allow prospective institutions time to complete their process.”
Here’s what USM Head Football Coach Will Hall has to say about the state of the Southern Miss nation going forward. “Southern Miss is in a good place because we’re one of the few group of five’s that has a real fan base, and football matters, and baseball matters, and basketball matters. A lot of places may be in big markets with population but nobody in those populations care anything about the school and whether they win or lose. We care here. Even though our population is not big, we care. We’re passionate. So, I think we’re in a good situation. We’re very attractive.”
Last year, the Sun Belt was the only group of five league to finish with two football teams ranked in the top 15 of the final AP poll.
Three remaining C-USA members, FIU, Middle Tennessee, and Western Kentucky left the Sun Belt in 2013 to join C-USA.
Here’s what a future in the Sun Belt could look like for USM in a west division also featuring South Alabama, Louisiana, ULM, Troy, Arkansas State, and Texas State.
In the east, Marshall, ODU, James Madison, App State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, and Georgia Southern.
According to the Action Network, Arkansas Little Rock and Texas-Arlington will no longer be league members by the 2023 season.