Sun Belt Conference
|Sun Belt Conference|
|Division||Division I FBS|
|Members||11 (10 beginning July 1, 2013, 11 beginning July 1, 2014)|
|Sports fielded||19 (men's: 9; women's: 10)|
|Region||Southern United States|
|Headquarters||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Commissioner||Karl Benson (since 2012)|
The Sun Belt Conference is a college 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 11 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 New Orleans, South Alabama, Georgia State, Jacksonville, Charlotte and South Florida. Over the next ten years the conference would add WKU, Old Dominion, UAB, and Virginia Commonwealth. Also, 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 WKU, South Alabama, Jacksonville, and incoming member Arkansas–Little Rock departed for other conferences. The Sun Belt then merged with the American South Conference, made up of Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech, Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana–Lafayette), Texas–Pan American, New Orleans, Lamar, and UCF. Although the American South was the larger conference, the merged league retained the Sun Belt name. UCF 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. FIU joined in 1998, and 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 and North Texas and then-independent Middle Tennessee State as full members and added independent Louisiana–Monroe and Big West member Idaho as "football-only" members. Another Big West school, Utah State, was added as a "football only" member in 2003, then departed in 2005 with Idaho and New Mexico State for the WAC.
In 2004, Troy 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 NCAA Division II Membership Committee. (Since then, UNO has decided to remain in Division I and has since agreed to join the Southland Conference.)
Florida Atlantic joined the league as a member in all sports on July 1, 2006. WKU joined the Sun Belt Conference for football in 2009 after its Board of Regents voted to upgrade the school's football program to Division I FBS.
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 will begin a transition from FCS to FBS in the 2012 season; it will play a full Sun Belt schedule as a "transitional" FBS member in 2013, and become a full FBS member, with bowl eligibility, in 2014. On May 2, 2012, Texas State 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 Texas–Arlington had accepted an invitation to join the conference and would become a full member by 2013.
Member schools 
Current members 
The Sun Belt has 11 members for the 2012–13 academic year. All of the full members compete in football except for Arkansas–Little Rock, the Sun Belt's lone non-football member.
|Founded||Type||Enrollment||U.S. News Ranking||Joined|
|Florida Atlantic University||Owls||Boca Raton, Florida
2006 (all sports)
|Florida International University||Panthers||Miami, Florida
|Middle Tennessee State University||Blue Raiders||Murfreesboro, Tennessee
|University of South Alabama||Jaguars||Mobile, Alabama
|Troy University||Trojans||Troy, Alabama
2005 (all sports)
|Western Kentucky University||Hilltoppers (men's)
Lady Toppers (women's)
|Bowling Green, Kentucky
|University of Arkansas at Little Rock||Trojans||Little Rock, Arkansas
|Arkansas State University||Red Wolves||Jonesboro, Arkansas
|University of Louisiana at Lafayette||Ragin' Cajuns||Lafayette, Louisiana
|University of Louisiana at Monroe||Warhawks||Monroe, Louisiana
2006 (all sports)
|University of North Texas||Mean Green||Denton, Texas
- North Texas, Florida International, Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee (members departing in red) will join Conference USA on July 1, 2013.
- Western Kentucky (member departing in yellow) will join Conference USA on July 1, 2014.
- Beginning in 2014, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Georgia State will join the East Division and Texas State will join the West Division. Idaho and New Mexico State will join the West Division in football only with Arkansas–Little Rock and Texas–Arlington taking their place in all other sports.
Future members 
|Founded||Type||Enrollment||U.S. News Ranking||Joins|
|Georgia State University||Panthers||Atlanta, Georgia
|Texas State University–San Marcos||Bobcats||San Marcos, Texas
|University of Texas at Arlington||Mavericks||Arlington, Texas
|Georgia Southern University||Eagles||Statesboro, Georgia
|Appalachian State University||Mountaineers||Boone, North Carolina
- Georgia State will become an all-sports member, including football, in 2013. However, as a transitional FBS school, it will not be eligible for the conference title, or for postseason play, until 2014.
- Texas–Arlington will be a non-football member.
- Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will begin FBS transitions in 2013, and will be eligible for the Sun Belt football championship once they join the conference in 2014. However, they will not be eligible for postseason bowl games until their FBS transitions are complete in 2015.
Future affiliate members 
|Founded||Type||Enrollment||U.S. News Ranking||Joins||Sun Belt Sport||Primary
|University of Idaho||Vandals||Moscow, Idaho
|New Mexico State University||Aggies||Las Cruces, New Mexico
Note: Idaho was previously a football-only member from 2001-2005, and New Mexico State was a full member from 2000-2005, with its football program joining in 2001.
Former members 
Former affiliate members 
|Institution||Nickname||Location||Joined||Left||Current Conference||Sun Belt Sport|
|Utah State University||Aggies||Logan, Utah||2003||2005||WAC (Mountain West in 2013)||football|
Membership timeline 
Full members (non-football) Full members (all sports) Associate members (football-only)
Due to space limitations, parts of two schools histories are not noted in the timeline: namely, Texas State and Texas-Arlington being in the WAC from 2012-2013.
- 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.
The Sun Belt Conference sponsors championship competition in eight men's and ten women's NCAA sanctioned sports. Future member Georgia State is an Associate member for men's and women's cross country and track and field.
|Swimming & Diving||
|Track and Field (Indoor)||
|Track and Field (Outdoor)||
For the current season, see 2012 Sun Belt Conference football season
Sun Belt champions
|Pick||Name||Location||Opposing Conference||Opposing Pick|
|1||GoDaddy.com Bowl||Mobile, Alabama||MAC||2|
|2||New Orleans Bowl||New Orleans, Louisiana||C-USA||5/6|
Football rivalries involving Sun Belt teams include:
|Teams||Rivalry Name||Trophy||Meetings||Record||Series Leader||Current Streak|
|Arkansas State||Louisiana–Monroe||Trail of Tears Classic||–||33||19–14||Arkansas State||Arkansas State won 2|
|Arkansas State||Memphis||Paint Bucket Bowl||–||55||23–27–5||Memphis||Arkansas State won 1|
|Florida Atlantic||FIU||Shula Bowl||Don Shula Award||10||8–2||Florida Atlantic||FIU won 2|
|Georgia Southern||Appalachian State||Black and Blue Bowl||-||26||11–14-1||Appalachian State||Appalachian State won 2|
|Louisiana–Lafayette||Lamar||–||Sabine Shoe||33||22–11||Louisiana–Lafayette||Louisiana–Lafayette won 3|
|Louisiana–Lafayette||Louisiana–Monroe||Battle on the Bayou||Wooden Boot||47||24–23||Louisiana–Lafayette||Louisiana–Lafayette won 4|
|Louisiana–Lafayette||McNeese State||–||Cajun Crown||37||15–20–2||McNeese State||McNeese State won 1|
|Louisiana–Lafayette||Southeastern Louisiana||–||Cypress Mug||39||19–17–3||Louisiana–Lafayette||Southeastern Louisiana won 1|
|Troy||Middle Tennessee||Battle for the Palladium||Palladium||20||12–8||Middle Tennessee||Middle Tennessee won 1|
|South Alabama||Georgia State||–||-||2||1–1||Tied||Georgia State won 1|
|Texas State||Nicholls State||Battle for the Paddle||Paddle||30||14–16||Nicholls State||Texas State won 1|
|Troy||South Alabama||–||-||1||1–0||Troy||Troy won 1|
|WKU||Eastern Kentucky||Battle of the Bluegrass||–||9||46–35–3||WKU||WKU won 2|
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.
|School||Tourney Titles||Title Years|
|South Alabama||11||1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1992, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2005|
|New Orleans||3||1978, 1979, 2007|
|South Florida||3||1982, 1986, 1990|
|Middle Tennessee||2||2003, 2009|
|New Mexico State||1||2002|
- Teams in bold represent current conference members.
NCAA champions 
The following current and future Sun Belt teams have won NCAA Division I team championships:
|Georgia Southern||6||Football (Division I-AA)||1985, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1999, 2000|
|North Texas||4||Men's golf||1949, 1950, 1951, 1952|
|Appalachian State||3||Football (Division I-AA/FCS)||2005, 2006, 2007|
|Louisiana–Monroe||1||Football (Division I-AA)||1987|
|WKU||1||Football (Division I-AA)||2002|
- Arkansas–Little Rock normally plays its home basketball games on campus but occasionally plays at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.
- Georgia Southern's football home of Paulson Stadium will be expanded to a capacity of 24,300 by the time the school joins the Sun Belt in 2014.
- Although the Georgia Dome has a football capacity of 71,228, Georgia State normally uses a configuration with a capacity of only 28,155.
- 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.
- "University of New Orleans gets approval from NCAA to move to Division II". The Times-Picayune. 2011-04-20. Retrieved 2011-09-06.
- "WKU Regents Approve Move To Division 1-A Football". Western Kentucky University. 2006-11-02. Retrieved 2006-11-03.
- McMurphy, Brett (April 7, 2012). "Sun Belt adding Georgia State". College Football Insider (CBSSports.com). Retrieved April 9, 2012.
- "Texas State will leave WAC, join Sun Belt in 2013-14". May 2, 2012. Retrieved May 2, 2012.
- Sun Belt adding Georgia State for fall of 2013 - ESPN
- Texas State Bobcats going to Sun Belt in 2013-14 - ESPN
- University of Texas-Arlington Mavericks to join Sun Belt Conference in 2013 - ESPN Dallas
- Sun Belt adding Georgia Southern for fall of 2015 - ESPN
- All time Division I-A football records, College Football Data Warehouse