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Sun Belt Adds Texas-Arlington, Ends Expansion

The Sun Belt Conference announced today that the University of Texas-Arlington will join the league, effective July 1, 2013.

UTA, which does not play football, will, upon their entry, bring the membership of the Sun Belt Conference to twelve schools, ten of which play FBS football.

“The addition of Texas-Arlington enables the Sun Belt Conference to split into compact divisions, thereby reducing travel costs and missed class time for student-athletes,” Dr. Jack Hawkins, Sun Belt Conference President and Chancellor of Troy University said.  The divisions will have UTA, Texas State, Arkansas-Little Rock, Arkansas State, Louisiana and Louisiana-Monroe in the west, with Troy, South Alabama, Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, Georgia State and Florida Atlantic in the east.  The league will use travel partners in scheduling.

Commissioner Karl Benson said the league would meticulously explore the benefits and drawbacks of a conference championship game for football, but, for the time being, the Sun Belt was no longer actively seeking new additions to its membership.

That announcement comes as a blow to schools like New Mexico State and Idaho, who are looking for a home for their FBS football programs, as well as potential FCS move-ups Appalachian State and Georgia Southern.

Benson called speculation concerning a ten-year moratorium on schools wanting to move up to FBS “premature” and said there was no timetable for the study of a potential conference championship game for football to be completed.

“We feel like, with the addition of Texas-Arlington, Georgia State and Texas State, the Sun Belt Conference is a stronger league than it was 60 days ago,” Benson said.

The addition of Texas-Arlington will bring the Sun Belt to 12 members for volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball.  The membership will increase from nine to ten schools for softball.

The conference also released other action taken at the Sun Belt meetings in Sandestin, FL.

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