Old Dominion University Joins the Sun Belt Conference

·6 min read

“We are excited about the expanded opportunities and limitless possibilities now and well into the future," said ODU President Brian Hemphill, Ph.D.

ODU Joins Sun Belt Conference

ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., (center) is shown with Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Keith Gill (left) and Arkansas State University Chancellor Kelly Damphousse, Ph.D., formally accepting the Sun Belt's invitation and officially signing on as a league member.
ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., (center) is shown with Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Keith Gill (left) and Arkansas State University Chancellor Kelly Damphousse, Ph.D., formally accepting the Sun Belt's invitation and officially signing on as a league member.
ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., (center) is shown with Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Keith Gill (left) and Arkansas State University Chancellor Kelly Damphousse, Ph.D., formally accepting the Sun Belt's invitation and officially signing on as a league member.

Norfolk, Va., Oct. 27, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Old Dominion University has accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference. ODU will join the Sun Belt Conference no later than July 1, 2023.

"Joining the Sun Belt Conference is a game-changer for Old Dominion University and our athletic program. We are excited about the expanded opportunities and limitless possibilities now and well into the future," ODU President Brian Hemphill, Ph.D., said.

"As we prepare to begin a new era in ODU Athletics, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to Commissioner Keith Gill and the Sun Belt's member institutions, especially Arkansas State University Chancellor Kelly Damphousse, Ph.D., for such a warm welcome. We look forward to competing with our Sun Belt family in the years to come. More importantly, we look forward to the lasting and meaningful partnerships that will develop as we spotlight the incredible talent and hard work of our student-athletes!"

Old Dominion joins the 10 football playing members of the Sun Belt Conference, including Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Louisiana, ULM, South Alabama, Texas State and Troy. The Monarchs will join the conference with Southern Miss, which announced on Tuesday it has joined the league.

"On behalf of our student-athletes, coaches and athletic administration, I want to express our gratitude to Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Keith Gill and the entire league leadership for this wonderful opportunity to join the Sun Belt Conference with all of its current momentum and potential," ODU Director of Athletics Wood Selig said.

"While C-USA has proven to be an excellent home for ODU Athletics during our transition from FCS to FBS, and we thank the C-USA membership and leadership for such an outstanding partnership, the chance to enhance the overall athletic experience for the student-athletes, fans and alumni of ODU in the SBC with regional rivalries represents the perfect opportunity for the continued growth and evolution of ODU athletic programs in our pursuit of national prominence.

"Additionally, I would like to thank and congratulate President Hemphill for his leadership and quick and decisive action which led to such a wonderful opportunity for our institution. We all look forward to our future in the Sun Belt Conference."

"We are thrilled to welcome Old Dominion University to the Sun Belt. ODU brings a host of strengths to our conference. They are competitive across all of their sports, have a strong brand and are supported by a great fan base," Gill added.

"I am grateful to President Hemphill and Athletics Director Selig for their leadership during this process. I'd also like to thank the CEOs and athletic directors of our current member institutions for their efforts as we continue our discussions around adding new members."

Since its move to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in 2001, the Sun Belt Conference has established itself as a leader among intercollegiate athletic leagues, earning national acclaim. The 2020 football season, however, was a breakout year:

  • The SBC accumulated an FBS-leading 21 non-conference wins in 2020, including a 3-0 record against Big 12 opponents.

  • In 2020, two teams (Coastal Carolina and Louisiana) finished in the final Top-25 AP Poll (CCU #14, Louisiana #15), Coaches poll (CCU #14, Louisiana #16) and College Football Playoff Rankings (CCU #12, Louisiana #19) for the first time in conference history.

  • The SBC was 6-3 against C-USA teams in 2020, including 3-0 in bowl games, and is 4-1 against C-USA teams this season.

Over the course of the past five football seasons, the conference has posted an FBS-leading .692 winning percentage in bowl games. The Sun Belt is 18-8 in bowl appearances over this five-year stretch.

The SBC has tie-ins with five bowl games: the Cure Bowl (Orlando, Fla.) Lending Tree Bowl (Mobile, Ala.), R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (New Orleans, La.), Myrtle Beach Bowl (Conway, S.C.) and the Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, Ala.).

In addition to the conference's accomplishments on the football field during 2020, the conference boasted a 135% increase in TV viewership, with seven of the conference's games surpassing 1 million viewers.

The Sun Belt Conference has a long-term TV deal with ESPN that runs through the 2030-31 season, while every ODU football and men's and women's basketball game will be on one of the ESPN Networks (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3 and ESPN+).

Old Dominion will join the Sun Belt in all sports the conference offers, including baseball, men's basketball, football, men's golf, men's tennis, women's basketball, women's golf, women's soccer, women's tennis and volleyball. ODU currently competes and plans to remain in the BIG EAST for field hockey. The rowing and lacrosse programs are currently in the American Athletic Association.

Old Dominion joined Conference USA in 2013, where it has won seven conference championships, including a pair in men's soccer (2014, 2017). ODU also won championships in women's golf (2017), men's tennis (2018), men's basketball (2019), women's tennis (2021) and baseball (2021). ODU had been a member of the Colonial Athletic Association since 1992, where it enjoyed great success by winning 51 conference crowns, led by 17 straight women's basketball titles from 1992 to 2009, 15 crowns in field hockey and six men's basketball championships.

ODU was a member of the Sun Belt Conference from 1982-1991 and enjoyed success in a wide range of sports.

The men's basketball team won Sun Belt regular-season titles in 1983 and 1986 and went to the NCAA tournament three times and the NIT three more during its nine seasons in the Sun Belt.

The ODU women's basketball squad won five Sun Belt titles and went to eight NCAA Tournaments. The 1984-85 team, coached by Marianne Stanley, won the NCAA tournament, the last of ODU's three national titles. The ODU men's soccer won the 1985, 1987 and 1989 titles and the ODU baseball team went to the NCAA Tournament twice in the Sun Belt Conference, including coach Mark Newman's 1985 team that finished 50-11 and won the Sun Belt title.

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About Old Dominion University:

Old Dominion University, located in Norfolk, is Virginia’s forward-focused public doctoral research university with more than 24,000 students, rigorous academics, an energetic residential community and initiatives that contribute $2.6 billion annually to Virginia’s economy.

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CONTACT: Eric Bohannon Old Dominion University 757-683-3374 ebohanno@odu.edu


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