The latest domino in the realignment bonanza has fallen, and it has put the future of Conference USA in doubt. Southern Miss announced Tuesday that it has accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference, with the school making the move no later than July 1, 2023. 

“Today is a great day for Southern Miss. I want to thank Commissioner [Keith] Gill and the Board of Directors within the Sun Belt for their faith in our institution and our ability to add value to the conference,” said Southern Mississippi athletic director Jeremy McClain. “We are excited about adding our rich tradition of success and passionate fan base to a conference that values those attributes, and look forward to working together to continue to elevate the Sun Belt on the national stage.” 

Southern Miss has been a member of Conference USA since the creation of the league in 1995. It has five C-USA football championships under its belt, with the last one coming in 2011. 

“This is a big day for our conference. We are thrilled to welcome The University of Southern Mississippi to the Sun Belt. Southern Miss 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. The electric atmosphere surrounding their games is a tradition we are proud to now be a part of,” said Gill. “I am grateful to President Dr. Rodney D. Bennett and Athletics Director Jeremy McClain 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.”

It is interesting that the Sun Belt chose to add despite the fact that it hasn’t been poached by other conference in the latest realignment wave. This round of realignment started in July when the SEC announced that it is adding Texas and Oklahoma out of the Big 12. The Big 12 responded by poaching UCFCincinnati and Houston out of the AAC, as well as independent BYU. The AAC then added six programs out of Conference USA — CharlotteFlorida AtlanticNorth TexasRiceUAB and UTSA

The move begins to leave the future of Conference USA in doubt. CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reported last week that Marshall and Old Dominion are also in the Sun Belt’s crosshairs, as well as FCS power James Madison. 

“To say that [Conference USA] is not wounded would be to deny [reality],” a source close to the discussions told Dodd.

Dodd reported that Conference USA could be looking toward FBS independents like Liberty, UConn and UMass, or FCS programs that may be looking to jump to the FBS level. 

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