The latest domino to fall in the current era of college football realignment appears to benefit the Sun Belt Conference.
Southern Miss has accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt and leave behind Conference USA starting in 2023, multiple reports said Friday.
The Golden Eagles likely won't be the final team to move. Old Dominion, Marshall and James Madison are considering joining the Sun Belt, Sports Illustrated and the Action Network reported.
The move comes after the American Athletic Conference pilfered six C-USA teams this week -- restocking after it lost Cincinnati, Houston and UCF to Big 12 invitations.
James Madison is a member of the Colonial Athletic Association and plays football at the FCS level, where it consistently has competed for national titles in recent years.
Old Dominion and Marshall, like Southern Miss, belong to C-USA. Should they leave as rumored, C-USA would be down to five members, potentially crippling the league.
Conference USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said the league is actively seeking replacements.
"We have a strong core of members to build around and are continuing to work to strengthen our league as we move forward," MacLeod said. "There are several institutions interested in joining Conference USA, both across FBS and FCS, some of whom we've already met with in person. Every step we take will be deliberate, strategically sound, and intentional.
"We will take the necessary time to add future members that will be the best fit from an athletic and academic standpoint and allow prospective institutions time to complete their process. We continue to believe in the regional concept and will look to incorporate that into our structure and scheduling. There are certainly many questions out there, but a great deal is happening behind the scenes. When appropriate, we will release more information, though out of respect for those involved, we will continue to operate outside of the public space."
Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA are the six C-USA schools who've agreed to join the American in 2023 at the earliest.
The other members of C-USA are Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, UTEP and Western Kentucky.
--Field Level Media