Georgia Southern, Appalachian St. join Sun Belt

Two of the most dominant programs in the Football Championship Subdivision are moving up to Football Bowl Subdivision.

Georgia Southern and Appalachian State announced in separate press conferences on their campuses Wednesday their athletic

programs are leaving the Southern Conference to join the Sun Belt Conference in 2014.

Georgia Southern's football team has won 10 Southern Conference titles and six national championships since 1985. Appalachian

State has won 10 conference titles and three national championships.

Both schools are slated to begin playing Sun Belt games and will be revenue sharing members of the conference in 2014 and

eligible for the Sun Belt conference title, but will not be eligible to play in a bowl game until 2015.

Georgia Southern President Brooks Keel called it a "milestone" day for the school.

"This decision was made with the long-term

interest of our University in mind," Keel said. "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. I am equally excited about the

opportunity that it will provide Georgia Southern and the

more than 75,000 alumni that make up the Eagle Nation."

Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson visited Georgia Southern Wednesday morning to welcome Keel, who formally accepted

the invitation.

"We have built our reputation around a focus on the student, and this move will allow us to partner to provide our student

athletes with the opportunity to compete on a national stage," Georgia Southern athletics director Tom Kleinlein said.

For Georgia Southern, the move to FBS comes after 65 percent of school's students voted to pay $75 a semester to support the

move.

That fee will be collected starting in the fall. Ground will also be broken in a few weeks to add 6,300 additional seats to

Allen E. Paulson Stadium and build a new Football Operations Center in the east end zone.

Appalachian State joined NCAA Division I in 1970 and has been a member of the Southern Conference since 1971.

The Mountaineers have competed at the FCS level since 1982 and won an unprecedented three consecutive national championships

from 2005-07.

Appalachian State's most memorable win came in 2007 when it pulled off a historic 34-32 upset over No. 5 Michigan, marking

the first time that an FCS program ever toppled a nationally ranked FBS opponent.

"I am proud that Appalachian has this

opportunity to compete in the Sun Belt Conference," Appalachian State

Chancellor Kenneth

Peacock said. "Our student-athletes have earned the opportunity to

participate at this level of collegiate athletics and we

welcome the new academic and athletic relationships that will

develop as a result of this partnership."

The addition of Georgia Southern and Appalachian State gives the Sun Belt 10 football members in 2015. They join Arkansas

State, Georgia State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Texas State, Troy and Western Kentucky.

In addition, Arkansas-Little Rock and Texas-Arlington help make up the 12 teams participating in basketball beginning in 2014.

The football schedule for Georgia Southern and Appalachian State for 2013 will not change.

However, neither team will be eligible to win the Southern Conference championship or participate in the FCS playoffs this

season.

There are some sports teams that won't participate in the Sun Belt Conference.

The Mountaineers field hockey team will continue to compete in the NorPac Field Hockey Conference and men's soccer and wrestling

will stay in the Southern Conference.

Georgia Southern officials say it's unclear in which conference their men's soccer team will participate.