Sun Belt Expansion of 4 Schools Expected to Happen This Summer, With One Exception
When reports surfaced last summer of the intent for Texas and Oklahoma athletics to depart the Big 12 for the SEC, it created a new wave of conference realignment.
As the Big 12 lost members, it began to search for new ones.
When a shakeup occurs within the group of five conferences (Sun Belt, AAC, MWC, MAC, C-USA), it leads to new and/or departing members.
In the case of the Sun Belt Conference, they acquired four new future members in Southern Miss, Old Dominion, Marshall, and James Madison.
Reports indicated C-USA members Southern Miss, Marshall, and Old Dominion would join the Sun Belt no later than July 1, 2023.
Reports were the same James Madison out of the Colonial Athletic Association Conference.
It appears the Sun Belt won't have to wait until the summer of 2023 for it's new members.
In my conversation this morning (listen to entire interview here) with Dr. Bryan Maggard, the Louisiana Ragin' Cajun VP of Intercollegiate Athletics (Director of Athletics), I asked him if the Ragin' Cajuns New Orleans Bowl opponent in Marshall may be playing Louisiana in a lot of sports next year.
“I think you’ll see all (four) schools in all sports, with the exception of James Madison football, to start competing in the Sun Belt next season for the 2022-2023 academic year," Maggard stated.
It's not official but is the expectation.
“It’s not finalized just yet, but that’s something we’re anticipating," explained Maggard. "Our conference office will be working around the clock to get all the sports schedules aligned and adjusted for the academic year.”
Every sports program from the four incoming members anticipates joining the Sun Belt on July 1st, 2022, with the lone exception of JMU football.
When might they join?
“The reason James Madison can’t do it (in football yet) is because as they move up from FCS to FBS, there’s a two-year window," said Maggard. "I think they’re trying to get a waiver that would allow them to come on board for the 2023 year.”
The new additions will increase Sun Belt membership to 16.
UT-Arlington and Little Rock do not have football.
Sun Belt football membership will be at 13 until James Madison is able to join the league as a football-playing member.