Sun Belt commish credits CCU for league’s ascent

sunbelt-bensonAlthough Coastal Carolina won’t be eligible to compete for the Sun Belt Conference football title in 2016, the addition of the Chanticleers has already had a major impact on the mid-major league – both on the gridiron and in other sports.

CCU coach Joe Moglia spoke at the Sun Belt Media Days in New Orleans on Monday about the excitement of the Chants joining the league. Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson said the feeling is mutual in his state of the conference address at the SuperDome.

“Coastal Carolina’s membership has had an immediate impact,” Benson said. “What that has said, and the message it has given to all Sun Belt teams and student-athletes, it is possible and will be possible for a Sun Belt team to play on the big stage and play for a national championship.”

Not only did Coastal make a big splash by winning the College World Series the day before officially joining the Sun Belt, but the addition of CCU was a big boost for the league. Benson said that Coastal Carolina’s addition to the league lineup, and the announcement that the conference would be comprised of 10 football members, was the final piece to the puzzle. The Chanticleer program begins competition in all Sun Belt sports except football this year, with CCU’s football program competing for conference honors in 2017 and becoming eligible for post-season bowl participation in 2018.

Monday’s Media Day was an opportunity to recap and review the league’s many advances since Benson took over as commissioner in July of 2012, and more importantly the league’s most recent moves. It is not just hyperbole to call the last 12 months the most significant since the Sun Belt began football competition in 2001 – and likely the most significant in the league’s 40-year history. The last year has seen:

* The establishment of a solid geographical footprint, with the Sun Belt locked into a path to a membership structure that benefits all sports;
* The announcement of a football championship game, one to begin in the 2018 season;
* The addition of a fifth bowl game tie-in, continuing an increase that has seen the Sun Belt more than double its bowl opportunities in the past four years;
* The completion of a stretch that has seen a 10-fold increase in conference revenues to member schools over the past three playing seasons, and
* Significant increases in both television and social media exposure.

“All our indicators are trending upward,” Benson said. “We have created a membership structure that is positioned for success. When I took this job in 2012, our goal was to build a model that would provide our members all they needed to maximize their own university goals and aspirations while under the Sun Belt umbrella. I believe that has been accomplished.

“All you have to do is look at the map now,” he said. “You see two teams from Texas, two from Arkansas, two from Louisiana, two from Alabama, two from Georgia and two from the Carolinas. It’s perfect, it works, and we believe in the long run it will allow the Sun Belt to grow and thrive and prosper.”

Photo courtesy of Sun Belt Conference

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