Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Georgia State has accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference, effective July 1, 2013, the university announced on Monday.

It will become the third school in the Peach State to play football at the FBS level, along with Georgia and Georgia Tech, when it officially begins conference play in the 2013 season. The university's football program is just two years old.

"For the past two years, the athletic department has worked tirelessly to build a top notch athletic department and a solid foundation in our football program," said GSU athletic director Cheryl Levick. "One of the biggest strides we've taken is today. We've taken a big step up to the Sun Belt Conference, because it is one of just eleven conferences in the nation who are members of the Bowl Championship Series."

Georgia State was a charter member of the Sun Belt in 1976, but departed for what is now the Atlantic Sun in 1984. It moved to the Colonial Athletic Association in 2005.

"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," said 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 Panthers will be eligible for the conference's championship and further postseason play beginning in 2014.

"Georgia State's withdrawal from the CAA and CAA Football is predicated on the university's desire to reclassify to FBS football which requires membership in an FBS league," said commissioner Tom Yeager. "We've been aware that GSU was having discussions with the Sun Belt Conference as the CAA could not accommodate that desire within GSU's timeframe. The conference wishes the university well as it pursues these new interests."