Old Dominion, Hampton settle into new conference homes

ODU joins Sun Belt
Posted at 12:19 AM, Jul 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-02 00:19:50-04

NORFOLK, VA (WTKR)- Friday marked a turning of the page for Old Dominion and Hampton as the first day in their respective new conferences.

The Monarchs officially became members of the Sun Belt Conference, their second tenure in the league. ODU was in the conference from 1982-1991 before joining the CAA. The silver and blue has been a member of Conference USA since 2013.

"We've been anxiously awaiting July 1 since mid-October and it's finally here," Old Dominion Director of Athletics Dr. Wood Selig said. "It's kind of hard to truly believe, but our coaches are excited, or student-athletes are excited and, most importantly, our fans are really thrilled to be back in the Sun Belt Conference."

ODU joins the league along with Marshall, Southern Mississippi and James Madison, growing the Sun Belt to 14 programs. The pros of the move are well-documented for the Monarchs, as they'll have more geographically-friendly opponents, natural rivalries, less travel and less missed class time for student-athletes and more exposure for the program with the league's ESPN contract. Selig says the Sun Belt Eastern Division might be the best football division in the Group of Five.

"I think it's going to help football," he said. "It's going to help our recruiting being part of the Sun Belt Conference, being part of that level of competition."

Selig also notices the strong leadership in the conference. ODU's administration has had the chance to work closely with the league office and its members for a good part of the last year and the Monarchs are looking forward to the continued cohesiveness between them, the league and the other institutions.

"Being in the Sun Belt Conference with great leadership, a lot of intelligence in the headquarters down in New Orleans, I think that's going to be a real asset for ODU and the other schools in the Sun Belt Conference," he noted.

Meanwhile, Hampton celebrated its first day as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association on Friday as well. The Pirates competed in the Big South Conference since 2018 after jumping over from the MEAC. They join the CAA along with North Carolina A&T.

Hampton Director of Athletics Eugene Marshall could not be more complimentary since getting to know his new CAA colleagues.

"Great people," Marshall said. "They have a great commissioner. We've had a chance to have great relationships with the presidents, with the conference staff and with the institutions' leadership, so that's what's really got us excited. We're one big family."

The move to the CAA puts the Pirates in an exciting corridor for Virginia sports fans, joining William & Mary and Richmond in the league. They also will gain exposure by being in some of the biggest media markets in the country, such as New York, Boston and Philadelphia. Marshall points out that plenty of Hampton fans and alumni reside in those markets and it will help with the future as well.

"Our recruiting base for students and student-athletes, we're right in the sun belt of it," he pointed out.

The Pirates join a league that stretches through most of the eastern seaboard. They'll get a chance to develop new rivalries while elevating the profile of the athletic program. Hampton accepted its CAA invitation this past January, becoming the first HBCU school to join the league and the program hopes to continue making history as it competes in its new conference home.

"I think it's going to be a great time to be a Pirate," Marshall said. "I think the fan base is excited, the alumni have been reaching out, they're excited."

Fall sports are first up on the agenda. Old Dominion's first Sun Belt football game will be September 24 when the Monarchs host Arkansas State at S.B. Ballard Stadium. Hampton will play its first ever CAA football contest that same day when the Pirates travel to Delaware.