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Southern Miss Reportedly Set to Join Sun Belt Conference as Soon as 2023

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIOctober 23, 2021

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Southern Miss has reportedly agreed to join the Sun Belt Conference, per Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports.

A source told ESPN's Adam Rittenberg on Friday that the move is a "done deal" and would "probably" happen in time for the 2023 fall sports season.

Southern Miss currently plays in Conference USA. As Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press reported, six C-USA schools (UAB, Charlotte, Rice, Florida Atlantic, North Texas and UTSA) are set to join the expanded American Athletic Conference. The Golden Eagles' move would continue the exodus of teams as Division I conference reshuffling continues.

After UAB left for the AAC, Southern Miss was the last remaining original member of Conference USA.

Per Rittenberg, the Sun Belt has also had talks with C-USA schools Marshall and Old Dominion, as well as James Madison out of the Colonial Athletic Association in the FCS.

The Sun Belt has not officially invited any of those schools, although conversations with ODU and JMU are reportedly further along than with Marshall. Only five members would remain in C-USA if ODU and Marshall leave: Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, Florida International, UTEP and Louisiana Tech.

C-USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a statement there are teams interested in joining the conference:

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"We have a strong core of members to build around and are continuing to work to strengthen our league as we move forward. There are several institutions interested in joining Conference USA, both across FBS and FCS, some of whom we've already met with in person. Every step we take will be deliberate, strategically sound, and intentional."

Thamel provided some potential additions:

Pete Thamel @PeteThamel

Conference USA is actively pursuing multiple avenues to expand and stay afloat. Among the schools they have been engaged with are Sam Houston State, New Mexico State and Tarleton State. There’s an effort to fortify the Western flank of C-USA that got gutted by the AAC.

Conference USA was formed when the Metro Conference and Great Midwest Conference merged in 1995.

The league has weathered exoduses before, including when the AAC welcomed Tulane, Houston, East Carolina, UCF, SMU and Tulsa over 2013 and 2014.

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