Georgia State is officially in the Sun Belt Conference

Georgia State is back where it started.

The Panthers officially announced on Monday that they have joined the Sun Belt Conference, which they helped found in 1976 but left five years later. The move is driven by Georgia State’s desire to reap the financial rewards of playing football on the FBS level and the expected of increase in ticket sales that more natural geographic rivalries can generate.

Georgia State will finish its last season as members of the Colonial Athletic Association in 2012-13 and officially join the Sun Belt in July 2013. The Panthers will be immediately eligible to compete for championships in all sports.

“Welcome home,” Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr., chancellor of Troy University and Sun Belt Conference president, told GSU president Dr. Mark Becker.

The decision to leave the CAA, considered one of the best mid-major conferences in basketball and a power in FCS football, is driven mostly by money, both revenues and expenses. Sun Belt teams play football on the FBS, or bowl level, which have the potential to generate more money  because of bowl sharing and the potential of guaranteed games, compared to the CAA.

It is a remarkable progression for a football team that less than two years ago played its first game in the Georgia Dome, where Monday’s press conference to make the official announcement was held. The atmosphere on Monday was of excited anticipation, with a blue carpet welcoming more than a hundred university officials, coaches, including football coach Bill Curry and basketball coach Ron Hunter, athletes and fans.

“For us to be able to move this quickly is something I would’ve never dreamed of…Maybe six or eight years down the road, but not this soon,”  said Curry, who said this promotion doesn’t change when he will decide if he wants to coach past this season.

Becker said there wasn’t a timeline for a move when he first met Curry in December of 2008. But he said the university’s desire to improve, coupled with the ever-changing landscape of college football, caused them to commission a feasibility study in December last year to study options. The study said that the Sun Belt seemed like a natural fit for many reasons. As athletic director Cheryl Levick and Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson began talking, it became apparent too both that the move had to be made. The invitation was extended by Benson and accepted by Becker Friday afternoon.

“It was too perfect not to act on it now,” Benson said.

Becker notified CAA commissioner Tom Yeager on Sunday that Georgia State was withdrawing. Once a member withdraws,  CAA bylaws exclude them from participating in conference tournaments. Georgia State has requested a waiver for spring sports this year and hopes that the CAA presidents will vote to allow GSU to compete for titles next year.

“Georgia State’s withdrawal from the CAA and CAA football is predicated on the university’s desire to reclassify to FBS football which requires membership in an FBS league,” Yeager said in a statement. “We’ve been aware that GSU was having discussions with the Sun Belt Conference as the CAA could not accommodate that desire within GSU’s timeframe. The conference wishes the university well as it pursues these new interests.”

Georgia State must pay an exit fee of at least $250,000 to leave the CAA. The conference is scheduled to vote on Tuesday to increase the exit fee to $1 million, which caused negotiations between the Sun Belt and Georgia State to speed up. Levick said Georgia State will not participate in Tuesday’s vote. Becker cited the current CAA bylaws when asked if Georgia State may have to pay the increased exit fee. There also will be a $300,000 entry fee to join the Sun Belt.

The move to the Sun Belt may help alleviate several concerns that Georgia State has had since joining the CAA in 2005. The CAA stretches from Atlanta to Maine in football, and Atlanta to Boston in basketball so regional unfamiliarity, the lack of rivalries, missed class time and travel costs have been an issue. There are four schools in the Sun Belt that are a five-hour drive or less from Atlanta. There are no schools in the CAA that close.

Once Georgia State begins in 2013, the Sun Belt will have 11 football-playing members, stretching from Texas to Florida. Benson, on the job for three months, isn’t done. He wants to add a 12th school that will play football. The number is less important than his ambition.

“We want to be a player on the FBS and BCS levels,” Benson said Monday.

Though football was the driving force, Benson said he wants the Sun Belt to be more than a one-bid league in basketball as well, and will push initiatives to try to make that happen. Hunter wasn’t available for interviews.

Georgia State now must submit to the NCAA a notice to reclassify, along with an application, strategic plan and philosophy statement, as well as pay a $5,000 fee. The NCAA’s annual deadline for receiving such packages is June 1, with a required postmark by May 25. Levick said that application is in the process of being completed.

Georgia State’s athletic department has been exploring a move since November of last year and commissioned Collegiate Consulting in December to produce a feasibility report.

The report concluded that “GSU is well-positioned to make a transition to FBS” and “that the Sun Belt would be the best fit.” Georgia State was also well-positioned to move to the Sun Belt from a budgetary standpoint, according to the feasibility study. The athletic department’s projected $22.9 million in revenues in 2011-12 is 44 percent more than the average Sun Belt member, according to the report. However, the difference in those revenues can be traced to student fees: Georgia State receives more than $16.5 million compared with $5.6 million for an average Sun Belt school. Conversely, the average Sun Belt school received $1.5 million in game guarantees to GSU’s $440,500. Benson said Georgia State’s facilties compare to the other schools in the Sun Belt, and that he was impressed by the football practice facility.

Georgia State has been looking for land and trying to raise money to move Panthersville, where many of its non-rev outdoor sports play. It is also trying to raise money to renovate the Sports Arena where the basketball teams play. Becker said the move to the Sun Belt won’t affect those plans. Levick added she hopes the move will persuade the alumni who have said “call me when you get to FBS” to donate.

Becker also referenced more lucrative TV contracts for FBS conferences as another financial benefit. The Sun Belt has a contract with ESPN for football and men’s basketball that Benson said is subject to re-negotiation when there have been membership changes.

“Today’s announcement will yield significant advancements for the Sun Belt and Georgia State for many years to come,” Becker said.


Todays nnouncement will yield signifacatn advancements for the sun belt and gsu fo many years to come.

63 comments Add your comment

Alum97

April 9th, 2012
2:09 pm

Pantherfan

April 9th, 2012
2:11 pm

YYYYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

blazerdawg

April 9th, 2012
2:26 pm

Congratulations Georgia State! Looking forward to the football game with FAU and to the men’s basketball game with MTSU.

C’mon now Georgia Southern – Paulding Stadium would be a great addition to FBS.

[...] takeaway from the press conference (info here from The AJC) is that UGA needs to schedule a home/home with GSU starting in 2013. I have no doubt that Mark [...]

State of Atlanta

April 9th, 2012
2:39 pm

Blazerdawg – take that Southern crap some where else.

Jake W

April 9th, 2012
2:45 pm

Very happy to hear this. Right now, Mississippi, with about 1/3 or our population, has more DI-FBS schools than we do. This will change with GA State making the jump.

@blazerdawg

A GS Eagle here, and I agree with you completely. I’d love to see my school make the jump, and we’ve been looking into it from time to time. Just haven’t been able to work it all out.

And it’s Paulson stadium. :)

Stan

April 9th, 2012
2:52 pm

It is so easy to be a part of something big, but very rarely can you be the start of something big. You know all that storied tradition people at schools all around us talk about. We get to set that tradition, right now. We have chapter 1 to write. This isn’t about now. I don’t care if we have a winning season in the next 7 seasons. Let’s face it. We are an expansion team. It is about what they are saying about this school and program in 20 or 30 years. Setting a path that my grandkids will hopefully be fighting over my season tickets that he has had since season 1.
UGA fans and Tech fans, we just want what you have. It is a long road, and we are ready to walk it.

Georgia State Enters the Big Time

April 9th, 2012
3:01 pm

[...] takeaway from the press conference (info here from The AJC) is that UGA needs to schedule a home/home with GSU starting in 2013. I have no doubt that Mark [...]

MOMB

April 9th, 2012
3:02 pm

The Panthers did NOT join the TAAC immediately after leaving the Sun Belt in 1981. The Panthers were independent until joining the TAAC in 1984. Please get the history straight. BTW, it’s a shame nobody has asked whether the Sun Belt still requires members to play home basketball games in the biggest available venues. That is why GSU left the Sun Belt because it was playing in front of 200 fans in The Omni and it was killing the budget.

Sluggo

April 9th, 2012
3:03 pm

There is absolutely no reason to entertain division II schools parading as FCS that pop off at the mouth. Get on our level!

Stateside

April 9th, 2012
3:05 pm

Happy the day is finally here. Go Panthers!

GSU is in Atlanta

April 9th, 2012
3:06 pm

Awesome day for GSU, now I am ready to watch some games down here in sunny South Florida!

zgoldatl

April 9th, 2012
3:11 pm

Sluggo

April 9th, 2012
3:14 pm

In terms of student fees, part of that is due to the size as well. Spread $500 a year over a student population of 12,000 and then spread that same $500 over a student population of 32,000. If anything, as the university grows, we should be less dependent on student fees.

zgoldatl

April 9th, 2012
3:15 pm

Stan- I couldn’t have said it better. My sentiments exactly. Proud to be a sth from day 1. Excited to see what the future brings

GSU is in Atlanta

April 9th, 2012
3:41 pm

When I enrolled to GSU back in 2000, I would have laughed if you were to tell me that 12 years later we would have an FBS football team. This is truly an awesome day for GSU students and alumni!

Atlanta Mafia

April 9th, 2012
3:43 pm

@blazerdawg – take that GaSouthern crap somewhere else! We don’t want their kind. We don’t those unclean animals in our conference. They have shown their true colors over the past two years and have been very ungracious. I used to like GaSo because I played high school ball with some of their players that won an FCS national championship. But since their fans have been so nasty about GSU, I really offer them no quarter anymore. They can just rot in FCS purgatory. We are on a rocket and they are on a wagon.

Good to be a Panther

April 9th, 2012
3:49 pm

Great day. I can’t wait to see how the Ga Southern Director of Athletics responds. Come on you had a 30 year head start now what say you?
Silence is golden. They are still trying to piece it all together.
Dazed and confused is now turning to anger, bitterness, jealousy, and resentment.

Do you like apples?
I have a Ga Southern alum coming with me to the Ga State vs. Univ. of Tenn game.
How do you like those apples!

Killiangsu

April 9th, 2012
3:51 pm

The State Collge, the Fake GSU, has no football tradition and will not win a game in 2013, or 2014, they don’t deserve the ability to play football on the FBS level.

The real GSU (Georgia Southern University) is steeped in football tradition, and should be the next Georgia football team to make the leap to FBS, this will only happen after our current Athletic Director is run out of town. Pitiful that a football team that has never played in a conference game, makes such a big jump, while a past national champion remians in purgatory.

Atlanta Mafia

April 9th, 2012
3:58 pm

Ya see, these GaSouthern folks still think it is about their history – you are history GaSo!
It is about students, and money, and facilities, and alumni, and so many things that you don’t measure up to. in Statesboro.

RoguePanther

April 9th, 2012
3:59 pm

Good job, Mark & Cheryl. Going toward the goal of GSU becoming the nationally known institution of the higher learning. Now y’all can get some good players & coaches.

Get some seriousness in our football team, y’all will be picked on by the CAA teams this year.
Let’s get some Ws.

Good luck

April 9th, 2012
4:03 pm

Ga Southern, UGA, and Ga Tech fans should be flattered, since most of the Ga State fans have attended your games and loved the experience. I went to the Ga Southern vs. Citadel homecoming game and many UGA and Tech games over the years. We just want what you already have from our own school. Our desire to have the game day experience that some of your fans take for granted should be perceived as a complement not a threat. I wish all teams in GA the best of luck and think much of the Ga Southern animosity would disappear if you moved to the FBS. Be fearless both on and off the field.

Killiangsu

April 9th, 2012
4:07 pm

@Atlanta Mafia – You’re joking right, facilities, you don’t even have a home field? You borrow a 65,000 seat stadium to play your “home games” where you have 1,200 “fans” show up to watch you play SCAD, The real GSU has more fans at their spring game than you do at a “Regular Season” game. Continue to play your flag football, if you want to learn the game, come on down to Statesboro, we have some options for ya.

The fact is that the current Athletic Director at GSU is “contnet” with the FCS, once we get a new AD, we will move up. Good luck in Knoxville this year!

Atlanta Mafia

April 9th, 2012
4:07 pm

@Good Luck – I will correct you to say “UGA” and “GaTech” and not GaSo, please. At least the first two schools can be cordial about it all and haven’t been trying to steal our name since 1992.

Atlanta Mafia

April 9th, 2012
4:11 pm

@ Killiangsu – really? The Georgia Dome is not a Home Field? What an ignorant comment. If you don;t see the appeal of that stadium AND other things then you obvious don’t understand the reason that we have moved up despite not winning more games. Your anger displays your confusion about the whole thing.

blazerdawg

April 9th, 2012
4:11 pm

State and ATL Mafia – man I love Georgia State – been going downtown since the 70s and to bball games since the last round in the Sun Belt – but y’all should be glad that Georgia Southern calls the Panthers out – nobody else cares. Georgia Southern in the Belt would be a great fit and I cannot understand how an institution that has had great vision over the past twenty years cannot see the benefit of going BCS.

A Georgia State v Georgia Southern football game would easily draw 60,000 to the Dome (or 30,00+ in Statesboro). If you are not familiar with the Boro and the campus down there, I think you would be impressed.

Jake W – apologies for the “Paulding” reference – no idea how I typed that. Love Paulson, and hope my undergrad VSU Blazers get to return there soon.

Atlanta Mafia

April 9th, 2012
4:14 pm

@ blazerdawg – I agree with your comments about GSU and GaSo. So convince your school mates or alumni mates that jaw jacking to GSU fans does not improve your chances or sympathy or improve your athletics dept standing to move to FBS. Please focus on Statesboro and quit the non-sense because we at GSSU have taken nothing from you “yet.”

blazerdawg

April 9th, 2012
4:15 pm

Oh, and to both sides, the ownership of the “GSU” reference is kind of goofy.

Atlanta Mafia

April 9th, 2012
4:17 pm

@ blazerdawg – We in Atlanta have been GSU since 1969 so I agree that you should get your own name then and lets stop being “goofy”

Basketball anyone?

April 9th, 2012
4:23 pm

How come the Southern fans never acknowledge that we beat them by 20 points in basketball this year. Sure its basketball, but I guess this point gets over looked when making their point.

blazerdawg

April 9th, 2012
4:24 pm

Mafia – I am in Atl, born in Atl, have taken classes at GSU, am a fan of the program, am hoping to be in Knoxville this fall for the Panthers ascendence on Rocky Top, and appreciate that you own http://www.gsu.com, but never once have I or my Atl friends referred to Georgia State as anything but, “Georgia State”. Nor have I ever heard Georgia Southern referred to as GSU when in South Georgia.

The whole “real GSU” argument is wierd, unoriginal, and does not represent either school’s tradition as special or unique.

GeorgiaState1913

April 9th, 2012
4:35 pm

@Killiangsu… Awwwww are you upset? We are sorry your school is obscure and nobody outside of Statesboro cares… get on with your life.

GSU is in Atlanta

April 9th, 2012
4:44 pm

@killiangsu…you do know that USC and UCLA rents the Rose Bowl??? USF rents Raymond James Stadium??? UM rents Sun Life Stadium??? GSU rents The Georgia Dome???

Point being, your argument sucks!

Atlanta Mafia

April 9th, 2012
4:54 pm

@ blazerdawg – been in ATL for more than 30something years and it has always been GSU, bro.
Thanks for pointing out that we are GSU according to the internet.

Atlanta Mafia

April 9th, 2012
4:56 pm

@ blazerdawg – just googled GSU and guess who they think GSU is?

BariBlue

April 9th, 2012
4:58 pm

Awesome job Becker and Levick!!! As a soon to be alum, I fully support this move. GSU: the 3rd FBS program in the state of Georgia! To the Gasou people, I wish you all the best… Hopefully you all can make the move soon. Bleed blue!!!!!

GSU is in Atlanta

April 9th, 2012
5:02 pm

I grew up in Covington, GA and all I ever heard was: Georgia Southern was referred to as Southern or Georgia Southern and that Georgia State was referred to as State, GSU, Georgia State, or GState.

State of Atlanta

April 9th, 2012
5:14 pm

@ BlazerDawg

I was hoping we could keep the Georgia Southern talk out of our articles for once. Especially on a day like today.

Jackson

April 9th, 2012
5:34 pm

Great job by the administration in getting this done. I am looking forward to next season and 2013. I am also looking forward to beating South Alabama every year.

Panthersville.com

April 9th, 2012
5:36 pm

April 9, 2012 – the “GSU” argument is officially over. The acronym is ours – we own the trademark, we own the domain name, we get the google results (even when you google “GSU Football” your “storied” program doesn’t win), we are FBS. You are FCS – deal with it. You think a new AD will save you? No AD or amount of spending on a new “football building” (whatever that means) will get you out of Statesboro, and as was proven today, that is all that matters.

Jee S. You

April 9th, 2012
5:38 pm

Best line overheard today:
GSU staffer to older booster “It is an exciting day!”
Older booster response to GSU staffer: “It was an exciting day in 1976 too! Let’s make sure this one sticks!”

[...] Georgia State is officially in the Sun Belt ConferenceAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)The decision to leave the Colonial Athletic Association, considered one of the best mid-major conferences in basketball and a power in FCS football, is driven mostly by money, both revenues and expenses. Sun Belt teams play football on the FBS, …Georgia State Announces It Will Join The Sun Belt ConferenceSB NationGeorgia State: Panthers Will Leave CAA for Sun BeltBleacher ReportGeorgia State to Sun Belt announcement MondayCBSSports.com (blog)SportingNews.com -Daily Press -al.comall 67 news articles » [...]

glsjunior

April 9th, 2012
5:56 pm

The only 6 flags that we care about here in Atlanta is the one off of I-20

BariBlue

April 9th, 2012
6:00 pm

GSU football: Beware. Due to this move, the all the CAA teams will have us marked in bold on their schedule. With that said, we can’t afford any more BS this season. Work hard and stay out of trouble… We have a tough road ahead.

GSU_Tang

April 9th, 2012
6:08 pm

Great days to come for the Panthers. Can’t wait for that….

Occupy Curryville

April 9th, 2012
7:13 pm

This is a great day to be a GSU Panther! Congratulations and thanks to the administrators who got this done under pressure.

GSU_MEX_PANTHER

April 9th, 2012
7:19 pm

It’s a step in the right direction!

rowdawgGSU

April 9th, 2012
7:48 pm

Can’t wait till we get our ESPNU logo! Shouldn’t be too far off now! GO PANTHERS!

S'paw_99

April 9th, 2012
8:36 pm

Testing 1, 2, 3

GSU88

April 9th, 2012
8:50 pm

So proud today great job Ad and staff. Can’t wait for opening day.