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ATLANTA (April 9)--Georgia State University has accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference on July 1, 2013, and will begin conference competition in the 2013-14 academic year.

The official invitation was extended by Sun Belt Conference President and Troy University Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., to GSU President Mark Becker at an afternoon news conference Monday at the Georgia Dome, the home venue of Georgia State football.

"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 Sun Belt is one of only eleven conferences to participate in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).  The Sun Belt was formed in 1976 with six members competing in four men's sports, and today comprises 12 institutions of higher learning while sponsoring 19 championship sports for men and women.

"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."  

Georgia State was a founding member of the Sun Belt Conference in 1976 but left the conference in 1981. In 1984, the school joined the Trans America Athletic Conference, which was renamed the Atlantic Sun Conference in 2001, and then moved to the Colonial Athletic Association in 2005.

The move to the Sun Belt means that the Georgia State football program, which began play in 2010 under head coach Bill Curry, will step up to the FBS level. GSU football will complete a transitional period while playing a Sun Belt schedule in 2013 and then will be eligible for postseason football in 2014. All other GSU sports will be eligible for Sun Belt championships in 2013-14.

President Becker noted that the move to the Sun Belt Conference will take place in 2013, the same year that Georgia State University, founded in 1913, celebrates its centennial.

"Georgia State is very much looking forward to joining the Sun Belt Conference as the university continues to set new goals for excellence, not just in athletics, but in research and everything that we do, over the next 100 years," said Becker.

GSU Director of Athletics Cheryl L. Levick added, "Under President Becker's leadership, Georgia State University is growing in size and stature as one of the nation's leading urban research institutions, so it is only fitting that our athletic program moves to the top level of college athletics.

"We want to thank Chancellor Hawkins and Commissioner Benson for this opportunity, and we look forward to an exciting new era in Georgia State Athletics," she continued. "The Sun Belt Conference is a tremendous fit for Georgia State, offering top-quality competition, increased exposure, and the chance to build rivalries with schools in driving distance for our fans."