CONWAY, S.C.- Coastal Carolina University President David A. DeCenzo announced on Sept. 1 that the CCU Chanticleers athletic programs will join the Sun Belt Conference effective July 1, 2016. During a news conference at the HTC Student Convocation and Recreation Center, DeCenzo expressed his appreciation to the Sun Belt Conference.

"On behalf of all of us at Coastal Carolina University, I'm honored to accept the invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference," announced DeCenzo. "I am grateful to Sun Belt Commissioner, Mr. Karl Benson, for his steadfast support of CCU, and to the Sun Belt presidents and chancellors, who honored CCU by selecting their 12th member school."

DeCenzo was joined by Commissioner Benson, CCU Chairman of the Board Wyatt Henderson, Athletic Committee Chairman Gene Spivey and Director of Athletics Matt Hogue.

"This is a great day for the Sun Belt Conference as we are very proud to have Coastal Carolina University join our membership," said Benson. "The Sun Belt is a growing conference with a bright future and Coastal Carolina makes a perfect fit as they too have seen a tremendous amount of growth and have all the tools necessary to move forward at the highest level of collegiate athletics. Under the leadership of President David A. DeCenzo and Athletics Director Matt Hogue, I expect the Chanticleers to be competitive in all Sun Belt sports and to represent the conference in a first-class manner on and off the field."

"The Sun Belt Conference has grown in strength today with the addition of Coastal Carolina University to its already thriving membership," said Sun Belt Conference President and Texas State University President Denise M. Trauth. "CCU is a well-rounded public institution that is reaching new heights with its remarkable growth. On behalf of the Sun Belt Conference Presidents and Chancellors, we welcome the addition of Coastal Carolina to the Sun Belt Conference."

"What a remarkable day for Chanticleer Athletics and a testament to the decades of success by our student-athletes and programs," stated Hogue. "NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision [FBS] membership and the tradition of the Sun Belt Conference will present new opportunities for our athletics program to help showcase the tremendous impact being forged by our University. By this invitation, we have been recognized for our excellence on and off the field. All Chanticleers past and present I'm sure will take great pride in this historic announcement."

DeCenzo explained that Sun Belt Conference representatives based their decision on the University's achievements and merit. "Their review of Coastal Carolina University and ultimate vote are clear indications of the recognition of academic and athletic excellence that we have attained on our campus. Joining the Sun Belt Conference will be transformative for our University as we enter this new phase of Coastal's future."

"This is a historic moment for all Chanticleers," explained Henderson. "The Sun Belt's invitation is perfect timing and matches very well with the trajectory of our University. CCU will join a distinct group of peer institutions experiencing similar growth and success both on and off the field. We will be aligned with the nation's top institutions."

"The move into FBS, which is the absolute highest level of collegiate competition, will increase the University's visibility and brand recognition," stated Spivey. " It will change how CCU is followed. We'll receive far greater media coverage, and our program will be promoted at a much higher level."

The Sun Belt Conference, headquartered in New Orleans, La., was established in 1976 and began sponsoring football in 2001 as a member of the FBS. In addition to football, the Sun Belt Conference sponsors baseball, men's basketball, women's basketball, men's cross country, women's cross country, men's golf, women's golf, men's soccer, women's soccer, softball, men's indoor track & field, women's track & field, men's outdoor track & field, women's outdoor track & field, men's tennis, women's tennis and women's volleyball.

The Sun Belt Conference has earned ties to seven bowl games since its football beginnings 15 years ago. No football conference in history has ever boasted as many bowl relationships in its first two decades of existence. A worthy football team in the Sun Belt can be in the national championship picture, and the league is a permanent part of the "Group of Five" that will send its highest-rated champion to a premier bowl game.

CCU sports will begin competing in Sun Belt conference play as of July 1, 2016, with the exception of the football program, which will transition to its first year of full FBS status in 2018. During the transition, CCU will compete as a Sun Belt member in 2017 and have the opportunity to compete for the conference football championship, but will not be eligible to participate in the postseason.

Coastal Carolina becomes the 12th member of the Sun Belt Conference, joining Appalachian State, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Troy, South Alabama, Arkansas State, Little Rock, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas-Arlington and Texas State.

DeCenzo emphasized that this move will not involve costs that fall on the backs of our students. He explained that joining the FBS brings a financial benefit that CCU doesn't currently have at the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision [FCS] level, including significant conference revenue sharing that can help offset the increased operating costs as an FBS program.

Coastal Carolina was a founding member of the Big South Conference in 1983, and the league was granted full-fledged NCAA Division I status for the 1986-87 academic year. Coastal Carolina added football for the 2003 season and has participated in the NCAA Division I FCS, formerly NCAA I-AA, since that time. Since becoming an NCAA Division I program, Coastal has won a total 165 Big South championships and was represented in 119 NCAA Championship events. Prior to its time as an NCAA Division I member, Coastal participated in NCAA Division II and the NAIA.