Sun Belt to add four teams, hold conference championship
The wheel of conference realignment never stops spinning.
This time around it's the Sun Belt's turn to grow, as multiple reports state the league will grow from eight to 12 teams by the end of this week. FCS powerhouses Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will be the first pair to join the league, which could happen as soon as Wednesday.
Georgia Southern's six FCS national titles are the most of any team in that subdivision, and the Eagles have made two straight national semifinals appearances. In preparation for the move, Georgia Southern announced in April plans to expand Paulson Stadium and to build a 57,000-square foot football operations center.
Appalachian State owns three national championships and 17 conference championships and led FCS in attendance for the fifth time in six years with an average of 26,358 fans per game, an average that would have been good for first place in the Sun Belt.
The Sun Belt, which has been forced to back-fill after losing Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee and North Texas to Conference USA, will reportedly circle back to a pair of original members in its quest to grow to the requisite 12 members to host a conference championship game. After launching Sun Belt football in 2001, Idaho and New Mexico State left the league in 2005 to join the WAC. That conference was deserted by conference realignment, leaving the Vandals and Aggies as independents for the 2013 season.
Both schools are expected to re-join the Sun Belt as football-only members for the 2014 season by Thursday of this week. Idaho and New Mexico State each finished 1-11 in 2012, and each school hired a new head coach this offseason - the Vandals with former Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino and the Aggies with former Boston College offensive coordinator Doug Martin.
The Sun Belt has previously announced the additions of Georgia State and Texas State to its football roster, giving the conference eight teams for this fall, joining remaining members Arkansas State, Louisiana - Lafayette, Louisiana - Monroe, South Alabama, Troy and Western Kentucky. The league is expected to hold a conference title game at campus sites beginning with the 2014 season. With the move, the Big 12 and Big East will be the only FBS conferences without plans to host a conference championship game.