Sun Belt considering adding Eastern Kentucky, Coastal Carolina

By Brian Wilmer -

The Sun Belt Conference is investigating the possibility of adding to its roster of schools, several sources reported this week.

The Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Sun News reported Thursday that the conference is interested in the Conway, S.C. school as part of a proposed plan that would involve the creation of East and West divisions in the league.

Coastal Carolina Director of Athletics Matt Hogue confirmed the talks to Ryan Young, who covers the CCU beat for the Sun News.

“We’ve been contacted and we’ve had some discussion and that’s really the extent at this point,” Hogue said. “That’s where we are. We can acknowledge that they have contacted us, and certainly our stance has always been we would explore any opportunities that are presented to us.”

Hogue also stated that the talks were part of an exploratory plan from the league’s offices.

“They did initiate the contact. We’ve really just kind of been trading information,” he said. “We’re learning a little about them and they’re learning about us.”

The Lafayette (La.) Daily Advertiser first reported the talks, quoting Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson.

“I think Eastern Kentucky has been public in declaring their interest in moving up to FBS. I think that Coastal Carolina has not made that public statement,” said Benson to the newspaper. “So has Eastern Kentucky contacted the Sun Belt? Yes. Have we had conversation with Coastal Carolina and others? Yes. That’s about all I can say.”

Benson largely echoed those comments on Twitter Thursday, closing with the same statement:

Coastal is one of two Big South schools who appear to have aspirations — public or otherwise — of playing FBS football.  Liberty University, based in Lynchburg, Virginia, has expressed interest on several occasions.  The Daily Advertiser piece, however, stated that Liberty has “not made any discernible progress” with the league.

11 schools currently play football in the conference, including Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Idaho, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, South Alabama, Texas State and Troy.

No timetable has been finalized for when — or if — the conference will announce its expansion.

Comments (37)

Any FCS program that is in a halfway decent hoops conference would be nuts to move to the Sunbelt which is not good at all in hoops. Conferences like the Missouri Valley, Summit & A10 (looking at you UMASS) that have won Men’s Tourney games earn credits that are shared by the ENTIRE conference. Which means even if you are horrible at basketball (Western Illinois) you still make $ off of it because of your conference mates. Any FCS football program that plays hoops in the MO Valley, Summit or A10 would be nuts to transition to FBS unless you could get into a league that is also good at hoops and the only Gang of Five League (non power D1) conference that is good at hoops in the Mountain West or the AMerican. CUSA lost all their good hoops programs to the AMerican, the Sun Belt has none, the MAC only has Ohio.

MWC & the American will only add teams if they lose some which won’t happen at least of a while until Texas pulls it head out of the sand and realizes the Big 12 needs 12 teams.

EKU will lose any tourney credits that it’s conference mates have earned in Men’s Tourney Hoops like Murray State’s win in 2012 and Moorhead State’s win in 2011. Pretty good showing for a mid major hoops conference and every team gets paid when they win.

I understand what you are saying and the Sun Belt does have work to do in hoops but last year the Sun Belt’s Conference RPI was 20th with Georgia State having a good showing in the tournament. That puts them in the lower half of the second tier which includes the Missouri Valley (which really is only two great teams) and above the RPI of the Summit. But let’s face it the only teams with quality football the Sun Belt could add will not help them in round ball anyway.

Same deal for Coastal Caroiina that has never won an NCAA men’s tourney hoops game, 2 of your conference mates have won tournament games in the last 10 years Winthrop in 07 UNC Ashville in 2011. You leave and no Hoops $ for you.

CCU would be a horrible selection. They are a liberal arts school withe zero research and no graduate school, and a miniscule endowment. They have no business being associated with comprehensive schools of much higher academic standard such as Texas-Arlington, Texas State, Louisiana Lafayette, Arkansas State, South Alabama, and Georgia State.

EKU is no academic powerhouse, but there is not much difference than Troy or Georgia Southern or Louisiana Monroe. My hunch is EKU is far more likely to get past the selection committee Presidents. Karl Benson really shows he doesn’t pay attention to the culture side, similar to when he threw out Liberty. Anyway I’d give EKU a 49% chance and CCU a 1% chance of being selected, and a 50% chance nobody.

So basically you feel that crappy schools like ULL UTSA et al shouldn’t associate themselves with REALLY crappy schools? Fair enough I guess

The Sun Belt should add them both, and bump Idaho out. Makes no sense to travel almost 2,000 miles for every game outside of NMSU.

Other than ego, there is no reason for Idaho to be FBS. They’re a perfect geographical and cultural fit for the Big Sky.

Geographically, not good for EKU or CCU, but it’s nice to see that Sun Belt is trying to get on board with 12+teams situation in the FBS. If all of the 10 conferences could have a CCG, maybe the CFP will expand to 6 teams, with a 4-team NIT bracket; or an 8-team bracket.

Actually, after looking at the conference as a whole, and split into a West and East division, CCU and EKU isn’t a bad idea. I’m not sure how both schools fair in other sports, but their usual annual FBS matchups would change, for the better.

And UMass is begging to get into the Sun Belt (or anywhere) and are not even an option. Pretty sad state of affairs for UMass.

Not sure how desperate they are. They have an on campus stadium which they are expanding and can always use Foxboro to play Power conference teams. Which is a situation that few Gang of 5 teams have. They’ve not done well in FBS but have played in 3 FCS Title games and won one.

What G5 teams are looking for a pro stadium 100 miles away from their campus to play in?

Having a 70k seat stadium means UMass can host BYU, Colorado and Vandy. Teams that otherwise would never play a road game at a G5 opponent

We are all jonesing for football, but when a program is contemplating a conference chance, more is involved than football especially for the FCS.

If your a MVFC program or UMASS/URI (A10 Basketball) where 4-5 teams get NCAA tourney bids many years; you get $ when those teams win tournament games so even if you don’t qualify you still make postseason $. Leaving that $ behind when exiting a conference is a consideration. That’s partly why UMASS rejected the MAC’s all or nothing ultimatum.

Mark……..Mark” BYU is playing at SJ St and Utah St this year. Last year they played at 3 G5 stadiums. All under 70K. Colorado is going to Hawaii this year and has a future game scheduled with Air Force. And Vandy is going to Middle Tennessee and Houston this year. Yo9ur statement is clearly wrong.

Everyone else is waiting for the XII dominoes to fall. If the XII takes a team or two from the MW, the Sun Belt will see NMSU finally get into the MW as a replacement, and the MW could even take UTEP forcing C-USA to find another replacement. (Idaho, really seems to be headed back to FCS, but a decimated MW would probably end up taking them to stay at 12. Hey, if it helps Hawai’i win a game, it’s good.)
Benson’s just being proactive, which makes sense. The SBC gets hit by the dominoes falling every time the American adds a Conference USA team, which then has grabbed half of the original Sun Belt. James Madison makes more sense to consider than Liberty though. Delaware would be a good pick too.

The Sun Belt has a very good plan in place to have a 14-16 team league with East and West Divisions. UMass will become the 14th or 16th School added. I think James Madison or Liberty will also be added. I see 2018 as the Full Membership for the FCS schools, and 2017 for UMass. Most of the Eastern Schools will be Football only members.

Dirk, do you project a 16-team league (some football only*) looking something like this?
East: App St, Ga So, Ga St, EKU, CCU, Liberty, JMU*, UMass*
West: Ark St, Louisiana, ULM, USA, Texas St, Troy, Idaho*, NMSU*
That would allow Idaho to stay, since each division would play the 7 other schools, and have only 1 (or 2 games if they went to 9 conference games) from the other side. The Alabama-Georgia border would make a logical divide… and UMass then would work on the East, since most of its travel would be not unfathomable.

To be honest, with the advent of the Power Five Conferences, strength of schedule (no longer playing either lower tier D1 conference and FCS programs anymore), and finally the CFP, I would propose another solution – both C-USA and the Sun Belt bowing to the inevitable and combining into a three division 24 team conference arranged by geography with a semifinal and championship game (three division winners and the next best team) as follows:

Central Division: Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Middle Tennessee State, South Alabama, Troy, Tulane, UAB (when they get football back in 2017), and Southern Miss

Western Division: Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Texas State, North Texas, UT San Antonio, UL Lafayette, and UL Monroe

Eastern Division: Appalachian State, Central Florida, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Marshall, and Old Dominion

Each team would play the other seven members of their division, one program each from the other two divisions and fill in the remaining two or three games with non-conference opponents. Once the playoffs are over, everybody goes to one of what seem to be hundreds of bowl games these days, regardless of whether you deserve to or not. Under this arrangement, the conference would be more geographically aligned and have something to really play for, since I don’t see anyone of these schools making the CFP in my lifetime. The Mountain West and the remnants of the WAC that are not getting into the Big 12 anytime soon should consider the same thing in my opinion. The major snag would be more political than anything else – who would run the combined conference and from where? Just some thoughts on a Saturday afternoon waiting for the season to start.

You must be smoking something!

CUSA is the third best conference in the Group of 5. The MAC is the fourth. And, the Sun Belt is the running joke that brings up the rear.

You do realize Tulane is now in the AAC not CUSA…..and is a candidate for the B12. ECU is also in the AAC, not CUSA.

My apologies: I mistakenly left Charlotte out of my proposed Eastern Division, bringing it up to eight programs

you guys are all talking about basketball and crap, and im sitting over here waiting for football season…

Benson is a blithering idiot! He ran the WAC into the ground and he will do the same to the Sun Belt.

As for Liberty, they have screamed from the mountain top that they are ready, and want to join the FBS ranks. They already have better facilities than a majority of the Sun Belt. The only reason Liberty has “not made any discernible progress” with the league, is because of the league. Not the school.

If you guys keep Benson, it will just be one more reason why the Sun Belt is a joke among the FBS conferences.

UMass for football only would be good for now. They need a home since the MAC doesn’t want them anymore.

It was UMASs that turned down the MAC’s all in or all out offer. UMASS felt that A10 hoops and moving elsewhere in football is preferable to being all in the MAC (except hockey)

As I said, this is merely a hypothetical exercise. I am at least trying to make some geographicsense of the situation. Does it really make any sense for Temple to be playing SMU or for that matter, West Virginia traveling to the Midwest and Southwest every other week to play a game? The bottom line is I could see the SEC making a run at Miami, FSU, and Georgia Tech. This would force the ACC to look at ECU, UConn, Temple, Cincinnati and perhaps even WVU with an eye towards strengthening their BB lineup.Does the Big 12 look to recreate the old SWC by taking Houston and SMU, while adding BYU and Tulsa? But does anyone really believe this conference realignment thing is over? The AAC is an aberration and will disappear if the university presidents and athletic directors in the other conferences, in light of the spiraling costs of a college education (and trust me I know, I teach several classes a semester as an adjunct instructor at my local four year college) come to the conclusion they need to get bigger financially to survive. I think this realignment phenomenon is a long way from finished.