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Georgia State Panthers
The Georgia State Panthers represent the NCAA Division I sports teams of Georgia State University. GSU's teams are members of the Sun Belt Conference, a conference they were a charter member of. Previously, GSU was a member of the CAA, and prior to that, the Atlantic Sun Conference (then known as the Trans America Athletic Conference, or TAAC). Georgia State became a fully accredited NCAA Division I athletics program in 1963, which saw the university give scholarships at the highest level of competition for college athletics. However, sports did exist at GSU prior to becoming an NCAA member; In 1956, the Panthers began a baseball team, the oldest sports played at Georgia State. Prior to joining the NCAA, no scholarships were given and no sports were part of any national affiliate. When GSU did join the NCAA, only basketball, cross country, golf, and tennis were played as NCAA sports (only men's teams were allowed to compete in the NCAA until 1980). In 1975, five women's sports also joined, playing in the New South Women's Athletic Conference, or NSWAC, a conference of the AIAW.
In 1976, the Sun Belt Conference was formed with Georgia State being one of its founding members. However, in 1980, the Panthers left the Sun Belt, with the most cited reason being that the conference encouraged its members to play in the largest basketball venue in town; in the case of the Panthers, that was the 16,500 seat Omni Arena, an NBA venue where the Atlanta Hawks played. With only a few hundred fans attending each game, this became a joke to media outlets, who purposefully tried to get pictures of the action with a lack of a crowd in the background. After leaving the Sun Belt, the Panthers played as independents for three years before joining the TAAC.