Swimming may have found its way into a new athletic conference. According to James Madison University (JMU) Athletic Director, Jeff Bourne, The Sun Belt Conference might be adding swimming & diving to their list of sponsored sports for the 2023-2024 season, following JMU joining the conference in July 2022. This would be the 13th sponsored sport in the Sun Belt.
JMU’s women’s swim & dive team spent the last season competing in the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA), where they finished second behind Liberty University. The JMU Athletic Department and the Sun Belt Conference first came to an agreement for the university to join the conference in November 2021, with an expected joining date of July 1st of this year. JMU ended up officially becoming a member of the Sun Belt Conference in July of 2022.
In the spring of 2022, the Sun Belt reinstated men’s soccer in April and announced the potential addition of swimming & diving and beach volleyball by no later than the 2023-2024 season. As of May 2023, there are 14 institutions that are a part of the Sun Belt, only a handful of which have either a men or women’s swim & dive teams. Georgia Southern University, JMU, and Marshall University only sponsor women’s swimming, and Old Dominion University sponsors both men’s and women’s swimming.
JMU, Marshall, and Old Dominion are all new members to the conference, hence the commitment to the addition of swimming & diving. Southern Mississippi is also joining the conference, but doesn’t currently sponsor swimming & diving.
As a result of major conference realignments and many of JMU’s sports playing in different conferences, JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne was tasked with finding new competition pools for many of JMU’s teams – including swimming & diving – which was moved to the CCSA for the 2023-2023 season. Bourne has been quoted as saying there is not a concrete timeline for the addition of swim & dive, but he feels that Sun Belt’s commitment to the addition and the progress made, points to the addition of the sport.
If the Sun Belt were to add swimming & diving for the upcoming season, Borne also noted that the competition would not be limited to only the institutions that currently have teams. Per Bourne, the Sun Belt agreed that the inaugural season of swim & dive would consist of at least six teams, to build upon a competitive and deep conference. That would mean either schools would have to add programs, or the Sun Belt would have to accept affiliate members in swimming & diving.