Reports: Sun Belt Expansion Has Begun
Southern Mississippi is the Sun Belt Conference's newest member.
According to multiple reports, the university on Friday accepted the Sun Belt Conference's invitation to join. The formal announcement will come Tuesday afternoon during a joint press conference held by the Southern Miss and the Sun Belt Conference. The Golden Eagles will join the Sun Belt from Conference USA, in which it was a charter member.
Fellow Conference USA members Marshall and Old Dominion and Football Championship Subdivision power James Madison are also expected to announce they will be joining the Sun Belt Conference in the coming days or weeks. Marshall's announcement may come after the university names its new president. That decision is expected to come as early as this Thursday. James Madison's announcement will be delayed by a matter of law. The Virginia legislature must approve JMU's move to the Football Bowl Subdivision before the university can accept the Sun Belt's invitation. Once the legislature and the board that oversees JMU give their blessing, then the Dukes could jump from the Colonial Athletic Association to the Sun Belt.
Liberty University was once one of the schools under consideration by both the Sun Belt and Conference USA during the current realignment. Liberty is reportedly no longer interested in Conference USA. Meanwhile, the Sun Belt is not interested in taking on Liberty as a member. The Falwell Family's management of the university may be on reason why the Sun Belt is avoiding Liberty. A new report out Sunday highlights some of those problems.
It's not the first time the Sun Belt has rejected Liberty during an expansion. Liberty made an offer to the Sun Belt to join the league in 2014. Sun Belt officials at the time declined, citing geographic issues. The league instead selected Coastal Carolina to join from the Colonial Athletic Association.