The sun shined on a new Sun Belt Conference Friday, as they welcomed four new members to push the league to 14 members in major sports.
James Madison, Old Dominion, Marshall, and Southern Mississippi will join an already loaded G5 conference, with the likes of Louisiana, App State, and Coastal Carolina.
“We are excited to officially welcome James Madison, Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss as members of the Sun Belt Conference,” said Commissioner Keith Gill. “This expansion to 14 members—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 lies ahead for the conference.”
The Sun Belt was founded in 1976 and began sponsoring a football league in 2001. The league also sponsors 18 sports recognized by the NCAA.
Here’s a breakdown of each of the four new schools.
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 success, including a Cinderella run into Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series in 2021.
The Golden Eagles of Southern Mississippi belong to a Tier-1 Research University in Hattiesburg, Miss., founded in 1910. The student population sits at over 14,000 students and the school holds five NCAA national championships: two in Division II football (1958 and 1962) as well as three titles in track and field. In football, the Eagles have appeared in 26 bowl games all-time.
Men’s basketball won the NIT in 1987, and Southern Miss has also been very successful on the diamond, with both baseball (2009) and softball (1999,2000) appearing in the College World Series.
Marshall University was founded in 1837 and is located in Huntington, West Virginia. The school has a population of 13,000 and the school holds three NCAA national championships: one in soccer (2020) and two in FCS Football (1992 and 1996).
Football has appeared in 18 bowl games, including 12-5 since making the jump to FBS in 1997.
Old Dominion was founded in 1930 and is located in Norfolk, Virginia. The student population on campus is over 24,000 and the school holds 28 team national championships: 15 in sailing, nine in field hockey, and four in both women’s (3) and men’s (1) basketball. The football program has appeared in two bowl games- winning the 2016 Bahamas Bowl and dropping the 2021 Myrtle Beach Bowl.
ODU was once a Sun Belt member and had great success while in the conference from 1982-1991. Men’s basketball won two conference titles, went to the NCAA Tournament three times, and the NIT three times. Women’s basketball 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. Lastly, Monarch baseball won the Sun Belt in 1985 after finishing 50-11 and appeared in two NCAA Tournaments.
The Athletic Year for the Sun Belt will kickoff with Sun Belt Football Media Days in New Orleans on July 26-27 at the Sheraton Hotel.