Old Dominion will leave Conference USA for the Sun Belt Conference, reports say

·2 min read

It appears Old Dominion plans to change conferences after all.

ODU is one of four schools expected to be invited to join the Sun Belt Conference as early as next week, multiple media outlets, including CBSSports.com, have reported.

The Monarchs would join Marshall and Southern Miss in leaving Conference USA. FCS football powerhouse James Madison, which competes in the Colonial Athletic Association, would leave that league and begin competing as an FBS program.

The moves are pending Power Five vacancies to be caused by anticipated affiliation changes by Oklahoma and Texas, as well as corresponding moves by other Group of Five programs.

The new conference affiliations won’t likely take effect until 2023.

An ODU spokesman declined to comment.

After Alabama Birmingham, Florida Atlantic, Charlotte, North Texas, Rice and UT San Antonio this week announced their plans to leave C-USA for the American Athletic Conference, ODU president Brian O. Hemphill released a statement announcing that the school was “actively engaged in a number of conversations to ensure the long-term viability and attractiveness of C-USA for ODU.”

The Monarchs, C-USA members since 2014, would have to pay an exit fee of about $3 million to leave the league. It costs about $2 million to join the Sun Belt, but the long-term benefits are obvious.

The New Orleans-based Sun Belt, which currently has 10 football-playing members, has a lucrative TV deal that guarantees the broadcast of every football and men’s and women’s basketball game on one of ESPN’s platforms. Those platforms will also broadcast a total of 500 events across all sports each year.

ODU was a Sun Belt Conference member from 1982-91, leaving for the Colonial Athletic Association, then joined Conference USA.

If the moves go through, the Monarchs will leave once swollen C-USA with just five football-playing members.

The Sun Belt East Division includes Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State, Troy, Georgia State and Georgia Southern. The West Division is made up of Louisiana, Texas State, South Alabama, Louisiana Monroe and Arkansas State.

In C-USA, the Monarchs have had conference road games as far west as El Paso, Texas, and as far south as Miami.

David Hall, david.hall@pilotonline.com

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