Georgia State to Sun Belt?; Spring Practice Update

Georgia State may be set for short CAA stay

Update 4:00pm: Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson denied that any approval for Georgia State was granted to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and said that he will not be in Atlanta on Thursday. He did say that he would take a "fact-finding trip" to Atlanta and admitted to having a "dialogue" with the university.

Georgia State joined the CAA conference in 2005 and made the decision a few years afterward to begin sponsoring a football program at the FCS level in that conference. After playing the last two seasons as a provisional independent, the Panthers will play in the CAA football league for the first time in 2012 — hosting Villanova at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on October 20.

That could be the first and last time that the Wildcats play a conference game against the Panthers. CBSSports.com is reporting that the Sun Belt Conference presidents have voted via teleconference to extend an invitation to Georgia State. An official invitation and acceptance could come as soon as this week, with the Panthers moving to the Sun Belt conference in 2013.

Georgia State would be a provisional football member of the Sun Belt in 2013, as they would still be transitioning from FCS. That is, assuming that they file paperwork for the transition by the NCAA's June 1 deadline. They would then need to undergo a mandatory 2-year transitional process to build up scholarships and infrastructure for the move to FBS. The soonest they would become a full member of the Bowl Subdivision (formerly I-A) is for the 2014 season.

The Sun Belt reportedly accelerated their timeline for expansion in the case of Georgia State, since the CAA is currently discussing a significant increase in conference exit fees, which are currently only $250,000. Commissioner Tom Yeager told the Richmond Times-Dispatch about their plans to do so, with the Atlantic 10, Sun Belt and perhaps other conferences sniffing around the CAA membership.

Expansion was on the top of new Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson's to-do list upon taking the job. There have also been informal discussions with Texas-San Antonio and Charlotte about joining the league and both may soon be invited. Especially with schools like North Texas and Florida International strongly on the Mountain West/Conference USA radar.

For CAA football, it will drop the football membership to 9 schools as of the 2013 season, with the ever-present threat that additional schools could be on their way out.

Maine and New Hampshire have heavy travel in the conference that no-longer has a strong New England presence. The Patriot League's decision to allow up to 60 scholarships for football programs could make that conference a viable option for the New England schools.

Other programs, could also have FBS ambitions, and leave the conference to move their program up. The MAC, having lost Temple University's football team, would perhaps be interested in adding a CAA member school to re-balance their football divisions at 14.

The CAA will likely need to expand in football in order to remain a viable league.

Starting center Shirey injured

Dan Shirey has started every game at center for the Wildcats over the past two seasons and started nine games as a freshman, including three of four games in the playoffs, on the way to the Wildcats' 2009 Championship. He will be sidelined this spring, however, suffering a leg injury that prevents him from putting weight on it.

The nature of the injury isn't known at this point, but as long as it is not the type of structural damage that cost Chidozie Ekweozor his 2011 season, Shirey could be back in time for preseason practice.

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