Sun Belt schools to meet, vote Sunday on expansion

It is no secret that the Sun Belt Conference wants to expand their conference so they can finally have divisions not just for football, but for every other sport as well. It was reported Friday afternoon that the conference was almost dead set on adding FCS schools Coastal Carolina and Eastern Kentucky.

According to The Advertiser, the Sun Belt schools will meet this Sunday to vote on conference expansion.

Presidents and chancellors will meet in Dallas Sunday afternoon to vote on if the conference will add the two FCS schools previously mentioned as well as taking on New Mexico State, who is currently a football-only member, on as a full time member.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson talked about fielding a football conference championship game no longer being the driving force behind the expansion. He feels it is only smart to create divisions if their conference is already so large.

“As we now go forward, and expecting that the NCAA will roll back the policy that requires 12 teams to do a conference football championship game,” Benson said, “we are no longer driven by a football championship game when it comes to our future membership. We now need to focus on what is in the best interest of our other sports.”

The Sun Belt currently has eleven full-time members, with two of those being University of Texas at Arlington and Little Rock, both of whom do not play football. Idaho and New Mexico State are football-only members, so that still only gives each sport eleven teams.

We need to get to get divisions for our other sports,” Benson said in New Orleans.

“When we will get there? We’ve tried. We’ve tried to make sure we get that right fit, both from an academic standpoint, from an athletic standpoint, from a maturity standpoint. We know the options aren’t numerous.”

“We will continue to explore,” he added, “but I think it’s important that we do this not necessarily with football in mind. This is no longer a football issue.”

Benson also talked about it not being fair to the student-athletes that they sometimes have to travel across the country to play conference games. Just imagine going from Boone, North Carolina (Appalacian State) to San Marcos, Texas (Texas State) for a one or two day trip to just play a three hour game.

“Appalachian State? Out there by themselves,” Benson said when discussing travel partners, “and it’s not fair to Appalachian State, and it’s not fair to our student-athletes to make that single trip.”

“If we’re a conference that stretches from San Marcos, Texas (Texas State), to Boone, North Carolina (Appalachian State), and Little Rock to Statesboro, Georgia (Georgia Southern),” Benson said, “we need to get to divisions for other sports — our men’s and women’s basketball, our volleyball, our baseball, our softball, our women’s soccer. That is our goal.”

Whatever happens on Sunday, the Sun Belt desperately needs to add at least a few more members to make things easier on the teams in the future. This could be an interesting situation to watch for the rest of the weekend.

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*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports

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