ATLANTA – The Georgia State Athletic Department has become a full member of the Sun Belt Conference and will compete for championships in 14 league-sponsored sports starting this fall.
“This has been an exciting yet challenging process, and the hard work of our coaches, student-athletes and staff is finally being rewarded,” Director of Athletics Cheryl L. Levick said.
“Transitioning out of the CAA and bridging two conferences over the past year has not been easy for our teams. I want to thank each of the student-athletes and coaches for their dedication and handling the move with integrity and class.
“Now, we look forward to playing a leadership role in the Sun Belt Conference and our teams competing for Sun Belt titles and postseason berths. It really is a tremendous day in Georgia State sports history.”
Georgia State President Mark P. Becker called it an important moment for the university.
“Our official entry into the Sun Belt Conference is another milestone in the upward trajectory of Georgia State University,” Becker said. “We look forward to a high level of competition in all sports and the development of intense rivalries that we hope engender increased pride, interest and involvement among our alumni, students, faculty and staff.”
The university officially became a member of the conference July 1 at 12:01 a.m. along with Texas State University and the University of Texas at Arlington.
A feasibility study in fall 2011 concluded the Panthers were well positioned to make the jump to the Football Bowl Subdivision level and that the Sun Belt would be an ideal fit. The move allows Georgia State to build on regional rivalries with several schools within driving distance, while also showcasing its teams to the country.
It is a return home of sorts for Georgia State, which was a founding member of the Sun Belt Conference in 1976. At that time, the league consisted of six universities playing across four men’s sports – basketball, soccer, tennis and golf.
Today, the Sun Belt Conference sponsors 18 sports, including 14 in which the Panthers will vie for conference titles. On the men’s side, Georgia State will compete in baseball, basketball, football, golf and tennis, while women’s sports include basketball, golf, cross country, soccer, softball, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field and court volleyball. Georgia State also plans to add women’s swimming and diving.
The Panthers already own two Sun Belt Conference titles in the past year. Ten individual sports were accepted into the league for 2012-13, giving the women’s cross country and men’s tennis teams a leg up on collecting hardware. Each squad won the Sun Belt title and helped Georgia State finish ahead of two conference schools in the 2012-13 Vic Bubas Cup standings (an all-sports trophy) despite competing in only half of the league’s sports.