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 11 member institutions of the Sun Belt are distributed primarily across the southern United States.
- 1 History
- 2 Member schools
- 3 Schools ranked by revenue
- 4 Commissioners
- 5 Sports
- 6 Championships
- 7 Football
- 8 Basketball
- 9 Baseball
- 10 Facilities
- 11 Academics
- 12 References
- 13 External links
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, 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 becomes 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 Texas–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 will join in all sports except for football starting July 1, 2016, with football joining in 2017.
The Sun Belt has 11 members for the 2014–15 academic year. All members except Arkansas–Little Rock and Texas–Arlington compete in football.
|Appalachian State University||Boone, North Carolina||1899||19,089||Mountaineers||2014|
|Arkansas State University||Jonesboro, Arkansas||1909||13,415||Red Wolves||1991|
|University of Arkansas at Little Rock||Little Rock, Arkansas||1927||13,176||Trojans||1991|
|Georgia Southern University||Statesboro, Georgia||1906||20,584||Eagles||2014|
|Georgia State University||Atlanta, Georgia||1913||32,087||Panthers||1976;
|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||29,689||Trojans||2005|
- Louisiana–Monroe — football was an affiliate member from 2001–2006
- 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 Jersey Institute of Technology||Newark, New Jersey||1881||10,646||Highlanders||2014||soccer (M)||Atlantic Sun|
|New Mexico State University||Las Cruces, New Mexico||1888||29,768||Aggies||2014||football||Western Athletic|
- Idaho — football was an affiliate member from 2001–2005.
- New Mexico State — was a full member from 2000–2005.
- Although NJIT's current all-sports league, the Atlantic Sun Conference (A-Sun), sponsors men's soccer, NJIT will remain a Sun Belt affiliate in the 2015 season due to contractual commitments. The NJIT men's soccer team will join the A-Sun in 2016.
|Coastal Carolina University||Conway, South Carolina||1954||10,263||Chanticleers||2016|
- Coastal Carolina accepted an invitation to the conference on September 1, 2015, with an effective date of July 1, 2016. It will initially be a member in all sports except football, with that team joining in the 2017 season.
- Florida Atlantic was a football-only affiliate in the 2005–06 school year.
- Texas–Pan American merged with the nearby University of Texas at Brownsville in July 2015 to create the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). The Texas–Pan American athletic program, and the school's membership in the Western Athletic Conference, were inherited by UTRGV.
Former affiliate members
|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)
Schools ranked by revenue
The schools below are listed by conference rank of total revenue. Total revenue includes ticket sales, contributions and donations, rights/licensing, student fees, school funds and all other sources including TV income, camp income, food, and novelties. Total expenses includes coaching/staff, scholarships, buildings/ground, maintenance, utilities and rental fees and all other costs including recruiting, team travel, equipment and uniforms, conference dues, and insurance costs. Net profit is calculated using the total revenue and total expenses data provided by USA Today, individual institutions, and the United States Department of Education.
|1||74||Texas State University||$29,764,777||$27,690,963||$2,073,814|
|2||91||Georgia State University||$26,721,964||$27,261,115||-$0,539,151|
|3||114||University of South Alabama||$21,115,562||$19,830,068||$1,285,494|
|4||118||Appalachian State University||$19,775,727||$21,395,675||-$1,619,948|
|6||127||University of Louisiana at Lafayette||$18,114,361||$18,652,324||-$0,537,963|
|7||131||Arkansas State University||$16,281,038||$16,281,038||$0,000,000|
|8||158||Georgia Southern University||$13,200,750||$13,200,750||$0,000,000|
|9||183||University of Texas at Arlington||$11,411,262||$13,970,673||-$2,559,411|
|10||187||University of Louisiana at Monroe||$11,231,311||$11,439,382||-$0,208,071|
|11||206||University of Arkansas at Little Rock||$9,403,112||$9,015,885||$0,387,227|
- 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 nine men's and nine women's NCAA sanctioned sports.
|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:
- Rodeo is sanctioned by the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA), not the NCAA.
Women's sponsored sports by school
- Georgia Southern — Golf (W) begins play in 2015–16.
- Texas–Arlington — Golf (W) begins play in 2017–18.
Women's varsity sports not sponsored by the Sun Belt Conference which are played by Sun Belt schools:
|Coastal Carolina||A-Sun||Big South|
- Future member Coastal Carolina (in gray) plays women's lacrosse in its current all-sports conference, the Big South. Its future affiliation in that sport is not yet known.
- Rodeo is sanctioned by the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA), not the NCAA.
- Women's Bowling - The Southland Conference provides administrative support for the Southland Bowling League, but the SBL operates independently from regular conference operations. The women's bowling league was established in 2015 and includes Southland Conference members Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin, plus Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech, Monmouth, Tulane, Valparaiso and Vanderbilt.
Current Sun Belt champions
The following current Sun Belt members have won NCAA Division I team championships:
|Georgia Southern||6||Football (Division I-AA)||1985 • 1986 • 1989 • 1990 • 1999 • 2000|
|Appalachian State||3||Football (Division I-AA/FCS)||2005 • 2006 • 2007|
|Louisiana–Monroe||1||Football (Division I-AA)||1987|
|Appalachian State||1928||567–325–27||.632||0||0–0||18||Scott Satterfield|
|Arkansas State||1911||446–468–37||.488||4||2–2||11||Blake Anderson|
|Georgia Southern||1923||356–200–9||.638||0||0–0||11||Willie Fritz|
|Georgia State||2010||10–35–0||.222||0||0–0||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
Bowl games for 2015 season
|1||New Orleans Bowl||New Orleans, Louisiana||MWC||5/6|
|2||GoDaddy Bowl||Mobile, Alabama||MAC||1|
|3||Camellia Bowl||Montgomery, Alabama||MAC||5|
|4||Cure Bowl||Orlando, Florida||American||7/8|
Football rivalries involving Sun Belt teams include:
|Appalachian State||Georgia Southern||Black & Blue Brawl||—||31
|Arkansas State||Louisiana–Monroe||Trail of Tears Classic||—||35
|Louisiana–Lafayette||Louisiana–Monroe||Battle on the Bayou||Wooden Boot||49
|Georgia State||Georgia Southern||Georgia Southern–Georgia State rivalry||—||1
|South Alabama||Troy||Battle for the Belt||Belt||4
- Non-conference play
|Arkansas State||Memphis||Paint Bucket Bowl||—||59
|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 State||Battle for the Palladium||Palladium||20
|12–8||Middle Tennessee State|
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.
- Arkansas–Little Rock normally plays its home basketball games on campus but occasionally plays at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.
- 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.
(Very High Research)
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-  Archived April 6, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
-  Archived July 22, 2015 at the Wayback Machine
-  Archived March 30, 2015 at the Wayback Machine
-  Archived July 3, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
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PERMANENT SEATING FOR 1,000 plus grass seating for thousands more
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Arena: GSU Sports Arena (3,854)
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Trojan Arena, a 5,200-seat multi-purpose facility, opened in the fall of 2013.
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