The Georgia State Panthers have accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference on July 1, 2013, the school announced this afternoon.
GSU will begin competition in the Sun Belt in the 2013-14 academic year. The Panthers were a founding member of the Sun Belt back in 1976 but left the conference in 1981.
Joining the Sun Belt means that Georgia State will step up to the FBS level from the FCS. The Panthers will complete a transitional period in 2013 but will play a Sun Belt schedule. Then in 2014, Georgia State will be eligible for postseason football and the Sun Belt Conference football championship.
Georgia State, which launched their football program in 2008, currently competes in the Colonial Athletic Association. Former Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky head coach Bill Curry was hired as the first coach of the Panthers in June 2008.
The Panthers played their first football game on September 2, 2010 against Shorter at the Georgia Dome in front of a crowd of 30,237. GSU won that game 41-7 and finished their inaugural season 6-5. Last season, Georgia State stepped up their competition a little and finished 3-8.
“On behalf of the presidents and chancellors of the member institutions of the Sun Belt Conference, I am pleased to welcome Georgia State University home to the league that it helped start in 1976,” said Hawkins. “The Sun Belt Conference has never been stronger athletically, academically or financially, and today we took action that makes us even stronger. For the Sun Belt Conference– the best is yet to be!”
“The addition of Georgia State to the Sun Belt Conference provides further strength for our league and is the beginning of a new era for GSU that will unquestionably be a time of great success for the Panther athletic program,” said Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson. “We strongly believe that the addition of GSU will continue to help the Sun Belt Conference in its rise to prominence.”
The Sun Belt, which is now has 11 members, has also had discussions with Charlotte and UTSA. Charlotte doesn’t play their first football season until 2013 while UTSA officially becomes a member of the WAC on July 1.