Sunbelt visit looks promising for Troy State

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 6, 2003

If not for bad luck, Troy State might not have any at all.

Last week, the Sunbelt announced it was visiting Troy State to talk about possible membership, but no one in the state wrote much about it because of Alabama's problems with Mike Price.

Tuesday, commissioner Wright Waters made a public press conference at Troy State, but a certain radio talk show host read portions of an upcoming Sports Illustrated article that forever ruined the phrase "Roll Tide" for Alabama fans.

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However, for all those Troy State fans out there, Tuesday's events were still promising. The news could not have been better for Troy State.

Although it is nowhere near official, I expect the Sunbelt will offer Troy State full membership by month's end. The committee that visited Troy State will make a recommendation either for or against conference expansion (and the Sunbelt needs Troy State like Mike Price needs a shot of penicillin) and the school presidents will vote May 23.

I don't see any reason Troy State should not get an invitation. From what I overheard at the lunch table (honestly, the meals before the press conference are as informative as the press conferences themselves, even if none of the language used is printable), the committee was quite impressed.

Four representatives, including commissioner Waters, were in town this week to visit the school and meet people associated with it. According to one source, the representatives were impressed with the academics and the overall feel of Troy State.

I realize the committee might say those things even if it was not truly impressed, but let's get real here. The Sunbelt needs another member. Louisiana-Monroe is not going to be a full-time member and even if Idaho decides to become a full-timer (and Waters seemed to think the Vandals would go that direction), the Sunbelt would still be one full-time member short of the 2005 requirements.

Given that football schedules are made so far in advance, that eighth member would have to be selected very soon to be able to start playing by 2005. I don't see that many schools floating around the college football landscape looking for football homes.

Connecticut, South Florida and Utah State will leave the ranks of the independent for conference play this season. That leaves the likes of Navy and Notre Dame as independents, and I don't see either jumping aboard the Sunbelt bandwagon.

Troy State needs the Sunbelt as well. The Atlantic Sun is a joke of a conference. Only the in-state rivalries with Samford and Jacksonville State made the transplanted NAIA conference worth a flying fossil, but both those schools have left for better places.

South Alabama would be a great in-state foe. The Jaguars are a good baseball program and have had flashes of brilliance in basketball in the past as well.

While football is not the conference's strength, other sports are. Louisiana-Lafayette and USA are excellent baseball programs and the softball conference is a step up from the Atlantic Sun.

Of course, Troy State's football program would benefit as well. The Trojans could play for a conference championship and a bowl game. Although ratings are probably not extremely high for the New Orleans Bowl, it is the first one of the season and many football junkies (like yours truly) will watch it simply because it is a football game.

Troy State should start competing in football in the conference in 2004, and the Trojans have already shown they can compete with the members of the conference.

So rest easy Troy State fan. Alabama may have overshadowed you this week, but the way things are going, you will play in a bowl game in New Orleans much sooner than Alabama will.