Georgia Southern announced this morning that it was leaving the Southern Conference and heading to the Sun Belt. Fellow SoCon and Football Championship Subdivision power Appalachian State will announce this afternoon that it, too, is leaving for the Sun Belt.
Both schools talked openly for many months about moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision.
"This decision was made with the long-term interest of our University in mind," Georgia Southern President Brooks Keel, Ph.D., said in a release posted on the Eagles' website. "The Sun Belt will provide our student athletes with an outstanding opportunity to compete at a highest level, and we are excited to contribute to the conference's success both on and off the field."
In December, the College of Charleston ended months of speculation about its future when it announced that it was leaving immediately for the Colonial Athletic Association. All three schools that are leaving are doing so while giving the SoCon less than two full years' notice, which means all three owe $600,000 in exit fees.
SoCon commissioner John Iamarino said today was a sad day for the conference but one he and everyone that follows the SoCon knew was coming. Now it's time for the league's presidents and athletic directors to take action.
"It will focus our people on, OK, we've got to make some decisions now because we are staring right at nine members for the 2014-15 academic year if we don't do anything," he told the Times Free Press.
The SoCon presidents and athletic directors will meet next month in Charlotte to discuss membership issues and then will meet again in May for their regular spring meetings.
Because Georgia Southern and App State - who have a combined nine FCS national championships - will begin their two-year transition phases starting this fall, which means adding scholarships, they will not be eligible for the 2013 FCS playoffs.
For more Mocs and SoCon coverage, see tomorrow's Times Free Press. You can also follow beat writer John Frierson on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.