Georgia State accepts invitation to join Sun Belt in 2013

Published 1:44 pm Monday, April 9, 2012

Georgia State University announced at a press conference on Monday that it would be joining the Sun Belt Conference in the fall of 2013.

The addition will give the conference 11 schools in football, one shy of becoming eligible to hold a conference championship game, and 12 in all sports.

“I can’t see anything negative about it,” Troy head football coach Larry Blakeney said. “I’m certain they will be competitive and exposing Sun Belt sports to the Atlanta market will be a positive as well.”

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It will be the first move made by new Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson, who took over April 1 for outgoing commissioner Wright Waters.

“With today’s announcement the Sun Belt gets bigger but most importantly gets better,” Benson said. “It is truly a partnership. The Sun Belt looks forward to adding the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta.”

Benson along with Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins Jr., Georgia State Director of Athletics Cheryl Levick and GSU President Dr. Mark Becker spoke and took questions from the media at the conference held inside the Georgia Dome.

Becker feels the Sun Belt is a natural fit for Georgia State.

“The Sun Belt provides an excellent fit for our athletic programs,” he said. “Joining the Sun Belt is just one example of how Georgia State is raising the bar for excellence.”

Georgia State voted to add football in 2008 and played its first full FCS season in 2010.

Troy and Georgia State already have a history in basketball when both were members of the Atlantic Sun Conference from 1997-2005 when Troy left for the Sun Belt.

“This is great for the conference, great for Georgia State and great for Troy,” Troy basketball head coach Don Maestri said. “We’ve had some good games with them in the past. I don’t see this being anything but good.”

With the addition of Georgia State’s football team, the Sun Belt is one school shy from the 12 required to host a conference championship game.

“This gets us closer to 12 teams and the possibility of a championship game,” Blakeney said. “I think the conference is moving in the right direction.”

At the press conference, Benson didn’t shy away from his desire to get the Sun Belt to the 12 team plateau in football but feels the school must be a good fit for the conference.

“Our first goal is to get to 12 schools, then we can build from there,” Benson said. “We can’t lose sight of geography. We want to build regional rivalries.”

Georgia State was a founding member of the Sun Belt in 1976 but left in 1981. The school joined the Trans America Athletic Conference, now known as the Atlantic Sun, in 1984. In 2005, GSU became a member of the Colonial Athletic Association.

Georgia State will begin competition in the Sun Belt Conference in the 2013-14 academic year.