Sources told ESPN that Southern Miss will soon join the Sun Belt Conference.
According to a source, the Southern Miss move is a "done" deal. The school will likely join the Sun Belt in 2023 for fall athletics season. Southern Miss is the latest school that has left Conference USA. This week, six members were lost to Conference USA: UAB, Florida Atlantic and Charlotte, North Texas Rice, Rice, Rice, and UTSA.
The Sun Belt has also had discussions about joining two other Conference USA schools, Marshall, Old Dominion and James Madison. James Madison is a top FCS program in the country, and competes in Colonial Athletic Association. These schools have not been invited to the Sun Belt. According to a source, talks with James Madison and Old Dominion are more advanced than those with Marshall. Next week is likely to see formal announcements.
The Action Network reported the first report on Southern Miss's move to Sun Belt.
Conference USA would lose Old Dominion, Marshall, and five other members if it were to be dissolved by Conference USA.
Judy MacLeod, Conference USA commissioner, stated in a prepared statement that "We have a strong core to build around" and said that she is continuing to work to strengthen the league as it moves forward. There are many institutions that are interested in joining Conference USA. Some of these institutions have met in person. Each step will be carefully planned, strategically sound, and deliberate.
"We will take the time necessary to add future members that are the best fit academically and athletically, and give prospective institutions the time they need to complete their application. We believe in the regional model and will continue to look for ways to integrate it into our scheduling and structure.
There are many questions, but there is a lot happening behind closed doors. We will provide more information as appropriate. However, out of respect for all those involved, our operations will not be made public.
The Sun Belt will focus its expansion efforts on football programs within the league's boundaries, and not in large metropolitan areas.