The Union Recorder

Local Sports

March 26, 2013

App. St., Ga. Southern joining Sun Belt

ATLANTA — Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are taking their programs to the next level.

The two schools who've won a combined nine FCS championships in football are leaving the Southern Conference for the Sun Belt Conference, said a person familiar with the situation.

Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will join the Sun Belt in every sport except football beginning in 2014. The football programs will join in 2015, making the transition from the FCS to the FBS.

An announcement is scheduled for later this week.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Monday on condition of anonymity because the move has not been publically announced by the schools or the conference.

The additions will give the Sun Belt 10 football members in 2015. Arkansas State, Georgia State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Texas State, Troy and Western Kentucky are the others.

Arkansas-Little Rock and Texas-Arlington help make up the 12 teams participating in basketball beginning in 2014.

The three-time FCS champion Mountaineers joined the Southern Conference in 1972 and won or shared the league title 12 times — including seven in the past eight years — with 20 appearances in the FCS playoffs.

A university committee commissioned two years ago to study the feasibility of moving up the football program recommended that the school seek membership in an FBS conference. At the time, the school did not set a timetable for making a move.

But the trickle-down effect of conference realignment reached the picturesque campus in the western North Carolina mountains.

Vacancies opened up in the Sun Belt when four schools — Florida Atlantic, Florida International, North Texas and Middle Tennessee State — left for Conference USA.

That came after C-USA lost several football members — including instate rival East Carolina — to the former Big East.

Appalachian State won three FCS titles in a row from 2005-07 under former coach Jerry Moore while also memorably upsetting fifth-ranked Michigan in the 2007 season opener — the first win for an FCS school against a team in the AP Top 25.

Georgia Southern has won a record six FCS titles — 1985, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1999 and 2000 — and nine Southern Conference titles.

Following years of rumors and fan speculation, Georgia Southern formally announced its intentions to move to the FBS level last April. The university also planned to expand Paulson Stadium by 6,300 seats.

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