Sun Belt set to play Nine-Game Football Schedule beginning in 2015

By Kevin Kelley -

Sun BeltThe Sun Belt Conference will begin playing a nine-game football schedule in 2015, according to the future schedules posted by Western Kentucky.

Back in June, Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson stated that the conference would likely move to a nine-game schedule. “There’s a chance we could get to nine games as early as 2014 but my guess would be 2015,” Benson said.

Western Kentucky’s schedules, which were recently updated, list eight conference games in 2013 and 2014, but nine in 2015 and 2016. Listed below are their opponents for each season:


  • Home (4) – Arkansas State, Georgia State, Troy, UL Lafayette
  • Away (4) – Middle Tennessee, South Alabama, Texas State, ULM
  • Miss (1) – Florida Atlantic


  • Home (4) – Middle Tennessee, South Alabama, Texas State, ULM
  • Away (4) – Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Georgia State, Troy
  • Miss (1) – UL Lafayette


  • Home (4) – Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Georgia State, Troy
  • Away (5) – Middle Tennessee, South Alabama, Texas State, ULM, UL Lafayette


  • Home (5) – Middle Tennessee, South Alabama, Texas State, ULM, UL Lafayette
  • Away (4) – Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Georgia State, Troy

The Hilltoppers are slated to play Sun Belt newcomers Georgia State and Texas State each year. The two schools are joining the conference in 2013 and will replace FIU and North Texas, who are moving to Conference USA.

With nine conference games, the Sun Belt will be able to play a true round-robin football schedule. Each team will play every other team every year. The only drawback is that the schedule will be imbalanced. Teams will have five home games one season, but then only four the next year.

The Big 12, which also has ten schools, currently employs this scheduling format. The Pac-12 plays nine games, as will the ACC in 2013, but both conferences have too many teams for a true round-robin format.

A nine-game conference schedule also means one less non-conference game. And Karl Benson wants his Sun Belt schools to schedule only one single-game contract per year. Those games often pay up to $1 million each.

”We’ve talked about scheduling philosophy, scheduling strategy. Ideally we’d like to establish across the board some scheduling parameters that would limit those guarantee games to one a year,” Benson said.

Western Kentucky has already adopted that stance, and others could follow. The result could be less available non-conference buy games for the SEC and other conferences.

Comments (8)

This move seems odd. It makes sense for the sake of the round-robin but it doesn’t appear to be a sound move for the long term health of the conference.

Sun Belt schools simple do not have the budget to run their athletic departments without the “paycheck” games against the SEC. A 9-game conference schedule would only allow for three OOC games and if two of those basically HAVE to be SEC “bodybag” games that leaves one free OOC game to schedule.

That free game would most likely be against an FCS team in order to try to reach bowl eligibility (plus the cheaper price tag, see budget) leaving NO games against the conferences (CUSA) that the Sun Belt is trying to prove itself against.

All this will do is secure that the Sun Belt stays at the bottom of the pecking order.

Bad move, especially now when the SBC has the chance to overtake CUSA for that “second to bottom” ranking.

Well you have to figure that if they narrow it down to 1 “paycheck” game a year they can always make it up in other sports. They could add more money games in basketball or what ever. Also if the extra game(the freed up pay check game) is done with a local C-USA school it could cover traffic (I.E. Louisiana tech playing home and home with the 2 Louisiana schools in the sun belt) FAU playing UCF,USF and FIU. They could make money since the school fans will most likely be able to travel to see the school play and it would ease travel costs for all schools.

I guess you think they can’t add, and besides we are only talking about a million dollars at most.

ASU committed to going to one money game a year, and at the same time increasing their support of the football program, when they hired Malzahn.

Turns out people like the idea od winning and are showing there are other ways of increasing revenue, and it is ‘game on’ at ASU, in this regard.

Biggs—why would LT, UCF and USF sign on to that.

They can do better. UCF and USF are in the Big East and LTU can make 800K as a decent enough opponent for a Big 12 or SEC team.

there is no reason not to. It’s expected to be a easy win for those schools. It also looks good to voters by getting a away win. Middle Tennessee states is hosting Vanderbilt in 2015 and 2017. South Alabama is hosting Mississippi state in 2014, nc state in 2015, Oklahoma state in 2017. Troy is hosting Mississippi state this year. Louisiana Lafayette has a home and home already with Louisiana tech in 2014-2015. ULM is hosting Baylor this year. There is already a habit of hosting bcs or bigger school at home. It’s cheaper for the bigger school then just buying a one and done. Also it could be a safe early season road test for schools. Louisiana tech could use the sun belt schools as a road test for the c-usa season and both schools are instates so they can have fans in the stadium and coaches can see how their players react in unfamiliar surroundings.

Regardless of its merits for the Sun Belt’s conference strength, the blindly hopeful part of me really likes this move because it MAY cut down on the one-and-done payday type games for the AQ schools, and may, may, MAY just encourage a little more intersectional scheduling among major teams.

Biggs you’re failing to see the big picture.

As it stands now, most SBC programs schedule two “paycheck” games, one FCS game, and one non-AQ game. If they move to a schedule of one “paycheck” games, one FCS game, and one non-AQ game as you suggest they are in essence replacing a “paycheck” game with a conference game.

Over the course of two seasons, that would be two “paycheck” games at $1 million per game or $2 million dollars minus travel expenses. Over that same two year period, they now will have a home conference game (revenue) and an away conference game (travel expenses).

Ask yourself: will the revenue made at the one home game minus the travel expenses for the road game come to a net that equals or exceeds the $2 million minus expenses figure? The answer is no, and not even close. So now the programs is operating in the “red” relative to where it was with an eight-game conference schedule. Many of these programs NEED that revenue stream to stay solvent.

The institutions that RELY on that revenue just to cover salaries, overhead, etc., will not be able to give up that second “paycheck” game. So what will end up happening if these programs want to keep a game vs CUSA is that the FCS game goes away, which would be a good thing I think, but AD’s who want that “guaranteed win” and that extra home game may not be willing to let it go so easily.

To LPB regarding: “ASU committed to going to one money game a year, and at the same time increasing their support of the football program, when they hired Malzahn.” – You should take a close look at the Arkansas State/Gus Malzhan contract and scrutinize the incoming monies in place to pay off the first and subsequent years. It’s not sustainable. Ark State is one of those programs with a limited budget that NEEDS that second game, now more than ever with the expense of Malzhan’s salary. I commend the program for wanting to move away from a second “bodybag” game but the money has to come from somewhere.