Sun Belt’s football format, tourney sites announced

sunbeltlogoThe Coastal Carolina football team will compete in the newly formed Sun Belt Conference’s East Division, and the baseball team will host the conference tournament in a pair of many announcements made by the league Tuesday.

Among the items finalized was the establishment of the 2018 eight-game football schedule format with two five-team divisions, the criteria for determining the representatives in the Sun Belt Football Championship Game, and the determination of the host site for the game.

The two football divisions established beginning with the 2018 season are the East (CCU, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, and Troy, and the West (Arkansas State, Louisiana, ULM, South Alabama, Texas State). The winners of each division will meet in the championship game.  The game will be played at the home stadium of the divisional winner that has the best ranking in the College Football Playoff (CFP) poll. Coastal is ineligible for championship consideration in 2018.

Championship sites for other sports were awarded for the 2018-2019 season: Baseball (CCU), Cross Country (South Alabama), Volleyball (Georgia State), Softball (Texas State), and Outdoor Track and Field (Arkansas State).

Sun Belt administrators also approved a collaborative instant replay system for football.  This model, based on the Southeastern Conference’s setup, will allow officials in a central location to review replays and assist instant replay officials at each game.

The Sun Belt’s Executive Committee will see a change as Texas State University President Dr. Denise Trauth’s two-year term as Sun Belt President has come to an end.  Georgia State President Dr. Mark Becker will replace her as Sun Belt President.  Dr. Trauth will remain on the Executive Committee as the Past President. Louisiana President Dr. E. Joseph Savoie will take over as Vice President and South Alabama President Dr. Tony Waldrop will take over as Treasurer.

In regards to performance, evidence exists for claims of the Sun Belt’s success.  Notably, a four-year average of football computer rankings using the established membership of the Group of Five presents that the Sun Belt trails the American Athletic (AAC) and Mountain West (MWC) Conferences in team rankings but outranks both the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and Conference USA (C-USA).  The Sun Belt finished third in a ranking among the five conferences following this past season.

The Sun Belt Conference’s success in bowl games gave another bragging point for the league this year as the six bowl teams combined for the second best winning percentage in all of college football – trailing only the Atlantic Coast Conference.

In men’s basketball, the Sun Belt has shown marked improvement from the four years prior to realignment compared to the last four years post realignment.  The Sun Belt’s average RPI finish has shifted towards the top an average of 3.25 spots.  The MAC also saw positive gains with a 4.75 shift, while CUSA (+8.25) and the MWC (+5.75) both saw their average RPI numbers shift backwards.

Another number that is trending upward: revenue distribution.  Sun Belt institutions have seen their annual distribution skyrocket by nearly 200% since 2013.  Sun Belt revenue distribution has increased by 2,000% from a decade ago.

“Empirical evidence exists that clearly shows the Sun Belt’s upward trends,” said Benson.  “Our on-field success can be documented, but it is also worth thinking about how much perception of the Sun Belt has changed.  We’ve caught the attention of the nation on a number of occasions and that has helped shift public opinion.  People recognize our conference and our member institutions – and most importantly they associate them with success.

“There is a universal sense that the Sun Belt is where it needs to be – strong and successful, but always willing to push the boundaries in order to find greater levels of achievement.”

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