Sun Belt Conference
|Sun Belt Conference |
|Division||Division I FBS|
|Sports fielded||18 (men's: 9; women's: 9)|
|Region||Southern United States|
|Headquarters||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Commissioner||Karl Benson (since 2012)|
The Sun Belt Conference is a collegiate athletic conference that has been affiliated with the NCAA's Division I since 1976. Originally a non-football conference, the Sun Belt began sponsoring football in 2001. Its football teams participate in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The 12 member institutions of the Sun Belt are distributed primarily across the southern United States.
The Sun Belt Conference was founded on August 4, 1976 with the University of New Orleans, the University of South Alabama, Georgia State University, Jacksonville University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and the University of South Florida. Over the next ten years the conference would add Western Kentucky University, Old Dominion University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Virginia Commonwealth University. New Orleans was forced out of the league in 1980 due to its small on-campus gymnasium that the Conference did not deem suitable for Conference competition. UNO competed as an independent before joining the newly formed American South Conference in 1987.
After the 1990-91 basketball season, all members of the Sun Belt, except Western Kentucky, South Alabama, and Jacksonville, departed for other conferences. The Sun Belt, including incoming member in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, then merged with the American South Conference, made up of Arkansas State University, Louisiana Tech University, the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette), the University of Texas–Pan American (now merged into the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley), New Orleans (re-joined), Lamar University, and the University of Central Florida. Although the American South was the larger conference, the merged league retained the Sun Belt name. Central Florida left the league following the 1991-92 academic year. Lamar, Texas–Pan American, and Jacksonville departed at the end of the 1997-98 academic year. Florida International University joined the Sun Belt in 1998, and the University of Denver was added in 1999. Louisiana Tech departed after the 2000-01 academic year.
The conference did not sponsor football until 2001, when the league added former Big West Conference members New Mexico State University and the University of North Texas and former Ohio Valley Conference member (an FBS Independent on football) Middle Tennessee State University as full members (all 3 of them joined a year earlier for all sports in the 2000-01 school year) and added FBS Independent University of Louisiana at Monroe and Big West member University of Idaho as "football-only" members. These new members gave the Sun Belt seven football playing members in their first season, as Arkansas State and Louisiana–Lafayette were already full members which sponsored football. Another Big West school, Utah State University, was added as a "football-only" member in 2003, then departed in 2005 with Idaho and New Mexico State for the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).
In 2004, Troy University became a "football-only" member until the Trojans joined the conference in all sports, effectively in the 2005-06 academic year. In 2005, Florida Atlantic became a "football-only" member until the Owls joined the conference in all sports, effectively in the 2006-07 academic year. In 2006, Louisiana–Monroe joined the conference as an all-sports full member when the Warhawks left their former home, the Southland Conference.
On November 11, 2009, New Orleans announced they were investigating a move from Division I to the NCAA's Division III. In order to maintain athletic scholarships, UNO instead opted for entry into Division II. On April 20, 2011, UNO officially received transition approval from the NCAA Division II Membership Committee. (UNO later decided to remain in Division I, and joined the Southland Conference in 2013.)
Early 2010s realignment
On April 9, 2012, Georgia State, one of the founding members of the Sun Belt Conference, announced that it would be returning to the conference as a full member in 2013. As part of the move, the football program began a transition from FCS to FBS in the 2012 season; it played a full Sun Belt schedule as a "transitional" FBS member in 2013, and became a full FBS member, with bowl eligibility, in 2014. On May 2, 2012, Texas State University announced it would leave the WAC after just one year and join the Sun Belt in July 2013 to begin play for the 2013-14 academic year. At the press conference to announce Texas State's addition, Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson also hinted that more changes could be on the way for the conference. On May 25, 2012, the conference announced that the University of Texas at Arlington had accepted an invitation to join the conference and would become a full member by 2013.
On May 4, 2012, FIU and North Texas announced that they would be leaving the Sun Belt for Conference USA on July 1, 2013 as part of a Conference USA expansion effort involving four other schools. On November 29, 2012, Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee State announced that they would also leave the Sun Belt for Conference USA. The move for Florida Atlantic and MTSU was originally scheduled to take place in 2014, however, the two schools announced on January 28, 2013 that they would leave for Conference USA a year early, departing on July 1, 2013 with FIU and North Texas. Western Kentucky also accepted an invitation to join Conference USA on April 1, 2013, and departed from the Sun Belt on July 1, 2014.
These moves depleted the Sun Belt and made the need to expand their membership more urgent than ever, as the Sun Belt was left with ten full members and only eight members that sponsor football (the minimum number required for a conference to sponsor football at the FBS level) for the 2013 season. Appalachian State University accepted an invitation on March 27, 2013 to join the Sun Belt effective July 1, 2014. Georgia Southern University accepted a similar Sun Belt invitation at the same time as Appalachian State. Appalachian State and Georgia Southern both joined for all sports from the Southern Conference on July 1, 2014. Both schools have been very successful within the Football Championship Subdivision, combining to win 9 national championships since 1985. They will be upgrading to the Football Bowl Subdivision, and will be eligible for Sun Belt conference championships in 2014, but will not be postseason eligible in football until 2015.
The Sun Belt also granted football-only invites to Idaho and New Mexico State on March 28, 2013. Idaho and New Mexico State were both former Sun Belt members (Idaho for football-only, New Mexico State for all sports) from 2001–2005. The large number of defections from the WAC forced that conference to drop football after the 2012 season. Idaho and New Mexico State were the only remaining WAC members that sponsored football, and competed as FBS independents for the 2013 season before competing in the Sun Belt in 2014. Idaho is located by far the farthest away from the other Sun Belt conference members, but it was rejected by the Mountain West Conference, leaving it with no other choice.
On September 1, 2015, Coastal Carolina University accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference. The university joined in all sports except for football starting July 1, 2016, with football joining in 2017.
|Appalachian State University||Boone, North Carolina||1899||19,089||Mountaineers||2014|
|Arkansas State University||Jonesboro, Arkansas||1909||14,074||Red Wolves||1991|
|Coastal Carolina University||Conway, South Carolina||1954||10,263||Chanticleers||2016|
|Georgia Southern University||Statesboro, Georgia||1906||20,584||Eagles||2014|
|Georgia State University||Atlanta, Georgia||1913||32,087||Panthers||1976;|
|University of Arkansas at Little Rock||Little Rock, Arkansas||1927||13,176||Trojans||1991|
|University of Louisiana at Lafayette||Lafayette, Louisiana||1898||17,508||Ragin' Cajuns||1991|
|University of Louisiana at Monroe||Monroe, Louisiana||1931||8,854||Warhawks||2006|
|University of South Alabama||Mobile, Alabama||1963||16,462||Jaguars||1976|
|Texas State University||San Marcos, Texas||1899||36,790||Bobcats||2013|
|University of Texas at Arlington||Arlington, Texas||1895||34,249||Mavericks||2013|
|Troy University||Troy, Alabama||1887||19,579||Trojans||2005|
- Louisiana–Monroe — football was an affiliate member from 2001 to 2006
- Troy — football was an affiliate member in 2004–05.
|Hartwick College||Oneonta, New York||1797||1,520||Hawks||2014||soccer (M)||Empire 8|
|Howard University||Washington, D.C.||1867||10,573||Bison||2014||soccer (M)||Mid-Eastern Athletic|
|University of Idaho||Moscow, Idaho||1889||12,312||Vandals||2014||football||Big Sky|
|New Mexico State University||Las Cruces, New Mexico||1888||29,768||Aggies||2014||football||Western Athletic|
- Idaho — football was an affiliate member from 2001 to 2005.
- New Mexico State — was a full member from 2000 to 2005.
- Florida Atlantic — football was an affiliate member in 2005–06.
Former affiliate members
|New Jersey Institute of Technology||Newark, New Jersey||1881||Highlanders||2014||2016||soccer (M)||Atlantic Sun|
|Utah State University||Logan, Utah||1888||Aggies||2003||2005||football||Mountain West|
Full members (all sports) Full members (non-football) Associate members (football-only) Associate members (other)
- Vic Bubas (1976–1990)
- Jim Lessig (1990–1991)
- Craig Thompson (1991–1998)
- Wright Waters (1999–2012)
- Karl Benson (2012–present)
In addition to the five Sun Belt commissioners, three future league leaders served on the Sun Belt staff prior to becoming conference commissioners, including Doug Elgin (Missouri Valley), John Iamarino (Northeast, Southern) and Tom Burnett (Southland).
On October 12, 2011, ESPN reported that Wright Waters would retire, effective July 1, 2012. On February 15, 2012, Karl Benson was hired as the new commissioner of the Sun Belt, after having been the commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference for 17 years. Waters would later move his departure date to March 15, allowing Benson to take over at that time.
|Track & Field Indoor|
|Track & Field Outdoor|
Men's sponsored sports by school
|New Mexico State||1|
Men's varsity sports not sponsored by the Sun Belt Conference which are played by Sun Belt schools
Women's sponsored sports by school
Women's varsity sports not sponsored by the Sun Belt Conference which are played by Sun Belt schools
- Appalachian State — Field Hockey joins the Mid-American Conference in 2017.
Current Sun Belt champions
The following current Sun Belt members have won NCAA Division I team championships prior to joining the conference:
|Football (Division I-AA)||1985 • 1986 • 1989 • 1990 • 1999 • 2000|
|Football (Division I-AA/FCS)||2005 • 2006 • 2007|
|Football (Division I-AA)||1987|
|Appalachian State||1928||567–325–27||.632||1||1–0||18||Scott Satterfield|
|Arkansas State||1911||446–468–37||.488||4||2–2||11||Blake Anderson|
|Georgia Southern||1923||356–200–9||.638||1||1–0||11||Tyson Summers|
|Georgia State||2010||10–35–0||.222||1||0–1||0||Trent Miles|
|New Mexico State||1893||429–598–32||.420||3||2–0–1||4||Doug Martin|
|South Alabama||2009||31–21–0||.596||1||0–1||0||Joey Jones|
|Texas State||1904||498–418–30||.542||0||0–0||12||Dennis Franchione|
Sun Belt champions
|2001||Middle Tennessee State
|2006||Middle Tennessee State
|1||New Orleans Bowl||New Orleans, Louisiana||MWC||5/6|
|2||Dollar General Bowl||Mobile, Alabama||MAC||1|
|3||Camellia Bowl||Montgomery, Alabama||MAC||5|
|4||Cure Bowl||Orlando, Florida||AAC||7/8|
|5||Arizona Bowl||Tucson, Arizona||MWC|
Football rivalries involving Sun Belt teams include:
- Conference play
|Appalachian State||Georgia Southern||Black & Blue Brawl||—|| 31|
|Arkansas State||Louisiana–Monroe||Trail of Tears Classic||—|| 37|
|Louisiana–Lafayette||Louisiana–Monroe||Battle on the Bayou||Wooden Boot|| 51|
|South Alabama||Georgia State||Clash of the Claws||—|| 5|
|Georgia State||Georgia Southern||Modern Day Hate||—|| 2|
|South Alabama||Troy||Battle for the Belt||Belt|| 4|
- Non-conference play
|Arkansas State||Memphis||Paint Bucket Bowl||—|| 59|
|Louisiana–Lafayette||Lamar||—||Sabine Shoe|| 34|
|Louisiana–Lafayette||McNeese State||—||Cajun Crown|| 37|
|Louisiana–Lafayette||Southeastern Louisiana||—||Cypress Mug|| 38|
|Texas State||Nicholls State||Battle for the Paddle||Paddle|| 30|
|Troy||Alabama–Birmingham||Dungeons & Dragons||20-sided Dice|| 11|
|Troy||Middle Tennessee||Battle for the Palladium||Palladium|| 20|
Main article: Sun Belt Baseball Tournament
The Sun Belt Conference has sponsored an annual baseball tournament to determine the conference winner since 1978. South Alabama has won the most championships, at 11.
- Coastal Carolina is currently expanding Brooks Stadium. When football joins the Sun Belt in 2017, the venue is expected to have a capacity of 20,000.
- Although the Georgia Dome has a football capacity of 71,228, Georgia State normally uses a configuration with a capacity of only 28,155.
- The 2016 season is Georgia State's last at the Georgia Dome, which is scheduled to be demolished in 2017. The football team will move into Turner Field, which the university will rebuild into a 23,000-seat football stadium.
- Little Rock normally plays its home basketball games on campus but occasionally plays at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.
- Louisiana–Lafayette women's basketball team primarily plays at Earl K. Long Gymnasium. Doubleheaders with the men's basketball team are played at the Cajundome.
|Institution||University System||Endowment||U.S. News
|Appalachian State||University of North Carolina System||$91,429,000||10
|Arkansas State||Arkansas State University System||$51,907,000||53
|Coastal Carolina||Not Applicable||$25,500,000||63
|Georgia Southern||University System of Georgia||$49,157,000||RNP
|Georgia State||University System of Georgia||$133,296,000||RNP
|Little Rock||University of Arkansas System||$70,080,000||RNP
|Louisiana–Lafayette||University of Louisiana System||$112,260,000||RNP
|Louisiana–Monroe||University of Louisiana System||$23,157,741||93
|South Alabama||Not Applicable||$497,274,000||RNP
|Texas State||Texas State University System||$161,264,000||52
|UT Arlington||University of Texas System||$113,800,000||RNP
|Troy||Troy University System||$56,610,000||65
- "WKU Regents Approve Move To Division 1-A Football" (Press release). Western Kentucky University. November 2, 2006. Retrieved November 3, 2006.
- "University of New Orleans gets approval from NCAA to move to Division II". The Times-Picayune. April 20, 2011. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
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- "Conference USA Adds Five New Members". Conferenceusa.com. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
- McMurphy, Brett (November 29, 2012). "C-USA adds FAU, Middle Tennessee State". ESPN. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
- Archived April 6, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
- Archived December 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
- Archived December 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
- Archived July 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Board approves Idaho football going independent". College Football.
- "Idaho football returning to Sun Belt in 2014 - Spokesman.com - March 27, 2013". Spokesman.com.
- "Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell news by Idaho Statesman". idahostatesman.com.
- "Statement from Big South Commissioner Kyle B. Kallander on Coastal Carolina" (Press release). Big South Conference. September 1, 2015. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
- "Sun Belt Football to Be 10 Teams in 2018" (Press release). Sun Belt Conference. March 1, 2016. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
- "Sun Belt Conference commissioner Wright Waters to retire in July". ESPN.com. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
- "Sun Belt Conference". Sunbeltsports.org. Retrieved May 28, 2015.
- "Sun Belt Conference - UTA Adding Women's Golf for 2017-18". Sunbeltsports.org. April 13, 2015. Retrieved May 28, 2015.
- "App State Receives MAC Affiliate Membership". Appalachian State University. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
- All time Division I-A football records, College Football Data Warehouse
- "Appalachian State Mountaineer Baseball 2014". Appalachian State University Athletics. p. 1. Retrieved December 5, 2014.
PERMANENT SEATING FOR 1,000 plus grass seating for thousands more
- "A-State Baseball 2014 Baseball Reference Guide" (PDF). Arkansas State University Athletics. p. 2. Retrieved December 5, 2014.
- "Springs Brooks Stadium (Vrooman Field)". Coastal Carolina University Athletics. Retrieved June 30, 2016.
- "2015-16 Georgia Southern Men's Basketball" (PDF). GSEagles.com. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
- "2014-15 Panther Men's Basketball" (PDF). Georgia State University Athletics. p. 1. Retrieved January 11, 2015.
Arena: GSU Sports Arena (3,854)
- "Jack Stephens Center". Little Rock Athletics. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
- "Trojan Arena". Troy Trojans Athletics. Retrieved September 11, 2015.
Trojan Arena, a 5,200-seat multi-purpose facility, opened in the fall of 2013.
- "Best Colleges - US News & World Report Rankings". US News & World Report. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
- "The Carnegie Classifications of Institutes of Higher Learning". Carnegie Commission on Higher Education. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
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