Southern Miss accepts invitation to join Sun Belt

Southern Mississippi accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference on Friday, dealing another blow to Conference USA, which already had six members announcing their departure from the league earlier this week.

Two people familiar with the decision told The Associated Press that Southern Miss had agreed to leave a conference she helped found in 1995 and join the Sun Belt on a date to be determined.

People spoke on condition of anonymity because the Sun Belt was not yet ready to make an announcement and was still working on other expansion moves that it did not want to address publicly.

Sun Belt commissioner Keith Gill did not immediately return a message left by AP.

Yahoo! Sports first reported that Southern Miss had agreed to join the Sun Belt.

The Southern Miss news comes a day after the American Athletic Conference announced the addition of six C-USA UAB, Charlotte, Rice, Florida Atlantic, North Texas and UTSA schools also on a date to be determined.

Conference USA has only seven long-term league schools left in Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, Florida International, Marshall, Louisiana Tech, and UTEP and this could decrease as the Sun Belt continues to grow.

C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod released a statement Friday that did not mention the departure of Southern Miss, but said the conference had a solid core to build on. « 

There are several institutions interested in joining Conference USA, both through FBS and FCS, some of which have already been met in person, MacLeod said. “Every step we take will be deliberate, strategically sound and intentional. We will take the time necessary to add future members who are sporting and academically most suitable and allow potential institutions time to complete their process. We continue to believe in the regional concept and will seek to integrate it into our structure and schedule. There are certainly a lot of questions, but a lot is going on behind the scenes. Where appropriate, we will post more information, but out of respect for those involved, we will continue to operate outside of the public space.

Earlier this month, MacLeod sent a letter to AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco proposing some sort of merger between the two distant conferences. The AAC had no interest and instead poached almost half of C-USA.


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