Changing landscape of college football leads to more questions than answers

Published 10:37 pm Friday, November 30, 2012

The dominos are falling once again as conferences continue to realignment and the landscape of college football continues to change.

On Thursday, Middle Tennessee State and Florida Atlantic announced that they would be departing the Sun Belt Conference to join Conference USA in 2014. Florida International and North Texas, a founding member of the Sun Belt, announced they were leaving for C-USA in May.

The move will leave the Sun Belt with just eight football-playing members.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The question now is how many more schools will jump ship or who will become the newest addition?

South Alabama, a founding multi-sport member of the Sun Belt, began playing football in 2009 and just completed it first full season in the league. The Jaguars will be eligible for a conference championship in 2013. Georgia State and Texas State are set to join the league in 2013 along with non-football member Texas-Arlington. Idaho and New Mexico State have been thrown around as potential targets and both are former members of the league. Idaho joined in 2001, but left shortly after in 2004. New Mexico State entered in 2000 and bolted in 2005. Both joined the Western Athletic Conference, which will dissolve before next season due to realignment.

Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson, who has taken a stance on keeping the league within the ‘footprint’ of the region, told the Las Cruces Sun-News that conversations have not taken place yet as to who may be on a short list of potential replacements.

“Once the process begins, that will be one of the questions we need to address,” Benson said. “One of our primary goals has been to maintain a tighter geography. But this is a new set of circumstances.”

Current Sun Belt member Arkansas State, who will play Middle Tennessee State for the conference championship today, has made its intentions of selling out for a conference jump clear in the past week. The school released a statement on Thursday saying: “Our Intercollegiate Athletics Department is always pursuing more revenue, more television exposure and more resources to field nationally recognized programs. We will consider any opportunities that could help us achieve our goals. Arkansas State is committed to the best interests of our student-athletes.”

ASU System President Dr. Chuck Welch appeared on local sports radio saying “ASU will be very proactive in this situation and will do what’s best for ASU and our student-athletes. I can promise you that AState will not settle for the status quo, the status quo isn’t acceptable for us at Arkansas State University.”

The Sun Belt Conference released a proclamation of dominance over Conference USA. The release was filled with statistics including breakdowns of where the conference’s remaining teams stand nationally compared to those jumping ship. It also pointed out the Sun Belt’s 11-5 record against Conference USA over the last two seasons. It also separated the deserting schools and broke down the “new Sun Belt versus the new Conference USA”. The Sun Belt holds a 31-19 advantage in that category.

“The strength of the Sun Belt remains firmly intact,” the release stated.

While more change is certain, it seems that the Sun Belt refuses to go down without a fight.