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Georgia State officially joins the Sun Belt


It’s been a few weeks coming, but Georgia State will officially join the Sun Belt beginning in the 2013-14 academic year, the school announced today.

“On behalf of the presidents and chancellors of the member institutions of the Sun Belt Conference, I am pleased to welcome Georgia State University home to the league that it helped start in 1976,” said Sun Belt Conference President and Troy University Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins in a statement.  “The Sun Belt Conference has never been stronger athletically, academically or financially, and today we took action that makes us even stronger.  For the Sun Belt Conference– the best is yet to be!”

Georgia State was a founding member of the Sun Belt Conference, but left the conference in 1981. The school began play in football in 2010 under head coach Bill Curry.

“The addition of Georgia State to the Sun Belt Conference provides further strength for our league and is the beginning of a new era for GSU that will unquestionably be a time of great success for the Panther athletic program,” added Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson. “We strongly believe that the addition of GSU will continue to help the Sun Belt Conference in its rise to prominence.”

The move has been worked through the rumor mill for the past several weeks. Upon taking over as SBC commissioner in February Benson said expansion would be one of his first priorities. Less than a week later, GSU announced it had hired a consulting group to explore the feasibility of a FBS jump. GSU is currently a member of the Colonial Athletic Association at the FCS level.

The announcement also comes as Conference USA and the Mountain West are exploring a merger. Though no official announcement has been made on that front, the MWC’s cable channel, “The Mtn”, has closed. A newly merged conference between C-USA and the MWC could also expand; several Sun Belt schools are expected to be targets of that expansion, including Middle Tennessee, FIU and North Texas.

Sun Belt member FAU said late last month it has not received an invite to any new conference.

Starting LB C.J. Johnson reveals surgery on social media, Ole Miss confirms

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Ole Miss will be without a starting piece of its defensive puzzle for an extended period of time, both the player and the school revealed Tuesday.

With rumors swirling about his condition, C.J. Johnson confirmed on his personal Twitter account late this morning that he will be undergoing surgery at some point in the not-too-distant future.  The linebacker sustained an injury to his left knee in last Saturday’s loss to Florida and did not return to the contest.

Subsequent to that posting, Ole Miss confirmed that Johnson underwent surgery earlier in the day to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.  The procedure and rehab will sideline Johnson for a period of 4-6 weeks.

At the low-end of the prognosis, Johnson would miss the next four games — New Mexico State, Memphis, Texas A&M, Auburn — and return for the Nov. 7 game against Arkansas.  The high-end would have him sidelined until the regular-season finale against Mississippi State.

Johnson had started all five games at middle linebacker for the Rebels.  He started 26 games at defensive end the past three years before moving to linebacker.

Butch Jones labels rumor of ‘physical altercation’ with Vols player ‘absolutely ridiculous’

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Head coach Butch Jones of the Tennessee Volunteers yells at Marquez North #8 during the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Already in the crosshairs for his 2-3 team’s late-game failures, Butch Jones now finds himself under increasing scrutiny for something that allegedly happened a couple of months ago.

The website, which features such respected journalists Tony Barnhart and Mike Huguenin among others, reported earlier today that the Tennessee head coach was involved in what was described as a “physical altercation” with senior offensive lineman Mack Crowder during summer camp this past August.  The source close to the program added that practice film that day captured the alleged incident, although it’s unclear if that tapes still exists.

From the site’s report:

The incident occurred during fall camp, about the time that news started to come out about a few offensive linemen who were considering stepping away from the program. Crowder walked off the practice field one day and missed a day or two of practice, and Brett Kendrick and Dylan Wiesman were said to be contemplating their futures. Sources say the players’ actions stemmed from an incident between Jones and Crowder.

The website also made a Freedom of Information request seeking any correspondence between the university and the Crowder family be turned over, but writes that UT “administrators said any sort of letter or correspondence that may or may not have happened was covered under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.”

Monday, Jones labeled what began as message-board speculation that he had struck one of his Vols players as “absolutely ridiculous.” The Knoxville News Sentinel contacted Crowder’s father, with the paper writing that “he had no comment and did not want to give validation to message boards.”

At least publicly, the university has yet to address the allegations.  Jones will get yet another chance to address the speculation with the media in the very near future.