As the major conferences in collegiate athletics continue to realign, the Sun Belt has seen an incredible amount of interest from talented programs. With Power Five schools making significant changes, it has trickled down to the smaller programs as well.
Breaking down the Sun Belt Conference, we’ve already seen the committee accept four new schools into the mix: Southern Miss, Marshall, Old Dominion and James Madison. All four of which are talented in their respective sports.
Let’s break down each and what they offer to the conference that our Cajuns just-about run:
For Southern Miss, they bring talent to the table. Whether it be in football, basketball, baseball or any major sport, they compete at the highest level. The most important sport moving to the Sun Belt, for them, is their baseball program.
Their baseball program is notoriously productive and with the Ragin’ Cajuns historically running the Sun Belt in baseball, it’ll be a nice adjustment having a true competitor in the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.
Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Keith Gill showed his gratitude for the addition of Southern Miss during their expansion conference in late October.
“We are thrilled to welcome The University of Southern Mississippi to the Sun Belt,” Gill said. “Southern Miss brings a host of strengths to our conference. They are competitive across all of their sports, have a strong brand and are supported by a great fan base. The electric atmosphere surrounding their games is a tradition we are proud to now be a part of.”
Moving onto Marshall, the addition of the Thundering Herd is just about as big as it gets for us. With just extraordinary football and soccer programs, throwing them into the mix makes this conference that much more competitive.
Leaving a truly overrated conference in Conference USA, it was time for Marshall to join a conference that has real competition. Accepting their invitation in late October, it showed they were ready to make the move and compete at the highest level.
Marshall provides a great fan base with talented athletic programs that can boost the Sun Belt to an even better standing.
The third team to accept an invitation to the Sun Belt is Old Dominion. Looking to grow their athletics to a higher level with greater competition, it seemed like a no brainer for the Monarchs to accept this invitation.
Transitioning their football program to the FBS level in 2014, now seemed like the best opportunity to make the jump.
Old Dominion provides excellent athletic teams with a great fan base to come along with it. The Sun Belt Conference is known for their passionate fans, so it seems like it’s a given that Old Dominion will fit in perfectly.
“We are thrilled to welcome Old Dominion University to the Sun Belt,” Gill said. “ODU brings a host of strengths to our conference. They are competitive across all of their sports, have a strong brand and are supported by a great fan base.”
The final domino to fall in the Sun Belt expansion comes in James Madison University. Officially accepting their invitation in early November, the FCS powerhouse is ready to show they’re prepared for brighter lights.
After winning the FCS national title in 2016 and reaching the championship game two more times since then, they’ll begin their adjustment instantly. Their football program is exceptional, consistently being at the top of the totem pole, but the addition of their other sports is something worth noting.
Competing in the Colonial Athletic Conference, it’s sure to be a tough adjustment at first for them, but time will tell as they begin gaining more notoriety with the bigger programs.
With the addition of Southern Miss, Marshall, Old Dominion and James Madison, the Sun Belt Conference now totals 16 teams, making them one of the largest among all active conferences in the country.
These four schools will begin competing in the Sun Belt Conference no later than July 1, 2023 as they begin their transition period.