Sun Belt football to be reduced to 10 teams in 2018

Robert George

The Sun Belt Conference will not renew their football memberships with the University of Idaho or New Mexico State University following the 2017 season.

“This 10-team football league will maximize the Sun Belt’s on-field performance, push us to the top ranking of our four peer conferences, and will give us the best opportunity to soon place a team in one of the College Football Playoff’s New Year’s Day bowl games,” Karl Benson, Sun Belt Commissioner, said in a statement released on Tuesday afternoon.

The 10-team league will include the addition of Coastal Carolina, which will compete in all sports except football in fall of 2016, with football competition beginning in 2017.

“This was a strategic decision that was reached following a thorough and complete review of our options,” Denise Trauth PhD, Sun Belt Conference and Texas State University President, said. “The Sun Belt’s Presidents and Chancellors strongly believe it is in the best interest of the conference to have a core membership of 10 football teams that are geographically located within the ‘footprint’ of the conference and that these 10 members also compete in all conference sports. This decision will reduce travel demands and missed class time for all Sun Belt student-athletes – while also furthering the development of regional rivalries within the conference.”

Benson also said that he would have “serious conversations with our football coaches and athletics directors about conducting a football championship game” and that “a decision will be made in the very near future.”

The Sun Belt is one of just two FBS conferences without a conference championship game, the other being the BIG 12.