Quarterback Taylor Heinicke and the other 22 sophomores on Old Dominion's football roster will get the chance to compete for the Conference USA title as seniors in 2014.
C-USA athletic directors voted unanimously to declare the Monarchs eligible for the 2014 championship while meeting Tuesday afternoon in Miami.
ODU athletic director Wood Selig declined comment when asked about the meetings, saying a release would be issued today on all actions taken by the athletic directors. However, sources at ODU who asked not to be identified confirmed that the league had approved the school's request to be declared eligible for the championship.
Old Dominion is moving up from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivision. The school plays a transition season as an independent in 2013, when its schedule will include four FBS teams, among them North Carolina and Maryland.
"This is important to student athletes," coach Bobby Wilder said. "They want to know if they're going to have a chance to compete for a championship. I equate this in recruiting to signing a five-star recruit. That's how important this news will be to our program."
ODU officials thought the team would not be eligible for a championship until 2015.
However, C-USA officials agreed several months ago to allow ODU to play a full conference schedule in 2014, and ever since that decision, Selig has contended that ODU should be eligible to win the East division title and play in the conference championship game.
If the Monarchs were to win the conference championship in 2014, it's unlikely they would be eligible to accept the accompanying bid to the Liberty Bowl.
Bowl eligibility is determined by the NCAA, not conferences, and under current rules, ODU can go to a bowl only if there aren't enough eligible teams to fill all the bowl slots.
ODU becomes bowl eligible in 2015.
The C-USA vote is seen as an aid to recruiting for ODU. Schools recruiting against Old Dominion no longer will be able to tell high school and junior college players that if you go to ODU, for the next two years you won't have anything to play for.
Wilder said he's been countering that by telling recruits for months that he believed his team would be able to compete for the 2014 conference title.
Also Tuesday, Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic announced they will leave the Sun Belt Conference early and join C-USA on July 1.
The two-day conference meetings conclude today. Officials are discussing conference realignment, expansion, television and marketing efforts.
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