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Southern Miss, Marshall and Old Dominion have reached an agreement with Conference USA to be released from their contracts early in order to transfer to the Sun Belt Conference in time for the 2022 sports season.
“Conference USA, Marshall University, Old Dominion University and the University of Southern Mississippi have reached a resolution allowing schools to terminate their membership at the end of the academic year,” the four said in a joint statement. “Conference USA will enter the 2022-23 academic year with 11 members. The university will compete as members of the Sun Belt Conference.”
The agreement closes a sensitive chapter for the schools with their soon-to-be ex-conference, during which Marshall sued Conference USA to be released from their contract. Conference USA bylaws state that schools are required to give 14 months’ notice and pay two years of conference distribution in order to be able to leave.
The three schools announced in January that they wanted to leave the conference early, despite the statutes. Conference USA responded with a statement that it expects members to honor their contractual obligations before retiring after the 2022-23 school year and will pursue legal options. Things got tense after Conference USA and the Sun Belt both released 2022 football schedules in which the three schools participated. With the resolution, Conference USA is expected to release a revised schedule.
The departure of Southern Miss, Marshall and Old Dominion is part of a wide-ranging reshuffle in the Group of Five. In addition to the Sun Belt expansion, which includes the transition of FCS James Madison, six former Conference USA institutions will join the American Athletic Conference in 2023. To counteract this, C-USA will add Liberty and New Mexico State as FBS members and Jacksonville State and Sam Houston as transitional FBS members.