Georgia Southern University Joins Sun Belt Conference

3-27 Georgia Southern joins Sun BeltOne of the most dominant teams in Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) history is making the move to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). Georgia Southern University has announced it has accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference.

“This is a milestone day for Georgia Southern University, and we are very excited to be joining the Sun Belt conference,” Georgia Southern President Brooks Keel, Ph.D., told a standing room only crowd in the Williams Center during the official announcement. “This decision was made with the long-term interest of our University in mind. The Sun Belt will provide our student athletes with an outstanding opportunity to compete at the highest level, and we are excited to contribute to the conference’s success both on and off the field. I am equally excited about the opportunity that it will provide Georgia Southern and the more than 75,000 alumni that make up the Eagle Nation.”

Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson visited Georgia Southern Wednesday morning to welcome the Eagles as President Keel formally accepted the Sun Belt invitation. “We have built our reputation around a focus on the student, and this move will allow us to partner to provide our student athletes with the opportunity to compete on a national stage,” said Georgia Southern Athletics Director Tom Kleinlein. “Today, I invite the entire Eagle Nation to stand up and join us on this journey.”

Georgia Southern’s football team has been part of the Southern Conference (SoCon) since 1993 and won ten conference titles during that time and six national championships since 1985. The Eagles’ football schedule for this fall will not change; however, Georgia Southern won’t be eligible for the FCS playoffs. The Eagles will begin playing Sun Belt games and will be a revenue sharing member of the conference in 2014 and eligible for the Sun Belt conference title, but will not be eligible to play in a bowl game. In 2015, Georgia Southern will become a full member of the conference and be bowl eligible. With the exception of men’s soccer, all other Georgia Southern teams will begin Sun Belt play in 2014 and eligible for the conference championship. Since the Sun Belt does not field a men’s soccer program, Georgia Southern is negotiating to find a conference home for the team.

The move to FBS comes after 65 percent of Georgia Southern University students voted to pay $75 a semester to support the move to a new level of competition for Eagle Athletics. That fee will be collected starting in the fall. Ground will also be broken in a few weeks to build a new Football Operations Center in the east end zone of Allen E. Paulson Stadiium and add 6,300 additional seats for football games.

Students, faculty, alumni, fans and supporters can learn more about Georgia Southern’s FBS move by visiting www.georgiasouthern.edu/journey.

Georgia Southern University, a Carnegie Doctoral/Research University founded in 1906, offers more than 120 degree programs serving more than 20,500 students. Through eight colleges, the University offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs built on more than a century of academic achievement. Georgia Southern is recognized for its student-centered approach to education. Visit: www.georgiasouthern.edu.

 

PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES

 

QUOTING: Brooks A. Keel, Ph.D., PRESIDENT, GEORGIA SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY

Our student-athletes deserve the opportunity to compete and perform on a national stage, and all of our academic people deserve to perform on a national stage as well. This move helps us market the university and get the word out beyond the reaches of Statesboro and our region.

Some folks are just afraid of change, just afraid of moving forward, and I understand that and respect that. But we’re all about trying to make this university the greatest we possibly can, and this an opportunity to take us to another level and do just that. So I’m hoping folks will get on board with this and will help us not only because they love athletics but more importantly, because they love this university and they love what this university is going to do for
the future of our country.

QUOTING:  TOM KLEINLEIN, DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS

What a great day for this institution and what a great day for Eagle Nation. There are a ton of people to thank for this moment. This is a great time and great opportunity for our athletic department to serve the mission of the institution, and our job is to put our institution on a bigger platform so we can talk about the great academic things that are done on our campus. That’s why this movement is about our entire institution.

Obviously, we know with this move, there will be challenges. Some of them are immediate. But Eagle Nation has always stepped up. They’ve always fought against the challenges, and they’ve always defeated the challenges. I know the people who make up this institution will go out every day and do the best they possibly can.

It’s a tremendous opportunity not only for our student-athletes but it’s a tremendous opportunity for our economic area as well. When we can play on a game on a Tuesday night or a Thursday night or on a Saturday and we can bring ESPN here, that’s tremendous exposure not only for our university but for corporate entities around Statesboro, Savannah, Jacksonville and Atlanta that want to be a part of it.

In 10 years, I see us competing for championships within the Sun Belt Conference. I see us being a nationally-recognized institution for athletics and academics because of the exposure this move will have given us.

Regarding football postseason eligibility:
If we declare June 1st, which is what our intention is, we will play the 2013 season ineligible to compete for postseason in the FCS, which renders us ineligible to compete for the Southern Conference championship. We will be eligible for the football championship for 2014 in the Sun Belt Conference, and we will be eligible for a football bowl game and the Sun Belt football championship in 2015. Also, by declaring the way we will declare, we will be eligible to start receiving and be a part of the revenue distribution associated with the Sun Belt Conference in 2014.

QUOTING KARL BENSON: COMMISSIONER, SUN BELT CONFERENCE
Our member’s chancellors and presidents have evaluated Georgia Southern, and there is a real affinity. The Sun Belt just got better from a football standpoint with the addition of Georgia Southern. Georgia Southern fits in the Sun Belt footprint, and I’m very confident that under the leadership of Dr. Keel and Tom Kleinlein and the coaches and all the student-athletes that Georgia Southern will be a contributing member of the Sun Belt immediately when they start play in 2014.

This is a very volatile and fluid time in college athletics and what the Sun Belt is looking for from Georgia Southern is stability and solid, credible programs that will allow the Sun Belt take a part here in this region and build the Sun Belt in the state of Georgia.

One of the things that come with being an FBS member is greater representation in the NCAA governance structure. So it’s important to get that FBS label not just from a promotional and recruiting standpoint but also from just the landscape of college athletics standpoint.

By adding Georgia Southern, we will get back to that six-team division in the east, and it will be compact. We’ve heard about the travel demands that joining the Sun Belt will have on student-athletes and teams, and we will minimize that because of the divisional play.

It is our intention that we would do a football championship game in 2014 and even though Georgia Southern would not be eligible for a bowl game in 2014, if Georgia Southern wins the Eastern Division of the Sun Belt, the first Sun Belt championship game could be right here in Paulson Stadium.

Regarding football postseason eligibility:
The requirement and the expectation was that Georgia Southern start that clock as soon as possible to be able to get to full FBS status by the 2015 season. As the Sun Belt is going through reinventing itself  and re-establishing its membership, we needed Georgia Southern to start that clock. We know that it does create some concern and some
issues for student-athletes, but whenever they start that clock, there is going to be a certain number of student-athletes who won’t be eligible for the FCS.

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