Sun Belt Football To Host Championship Game in 2018
The Sun Belt Conference announced today they will hold the inaugural Sun Belt Football Championship Game in 2018.
With the Big 12 conference announcing they, too, will be hosting a title game, the SBC was the only league to not have one. That changed with the announcement today, which, according to the league, was unanimous among presidents and athletic directors in the conference.
“This past year we solidified our membership with the addition of Coastal Carolina and the decision to move forward as a 10-team football league. When the NCAA Division I Council passed new rules on championship games, we knew our 10-team lineup for 2018 was going to be ready to move forward with a vote. I applaud all of the leaders of the Sun Belt membership in their unanimity on this issue," Commissioner Karl Benson said.
The league was not ready to announce the actual format for the game or how the participants would be selected. The league can either split into divisions and play an eight game league schedule, pitting division winners, or play a nine game round robin schedule without divisions. A decision will be made at a later date.
The press release quoted Louisiana athletics director Scott Farmer as saying, "“Having a championship game will provide all participating student-athletes the experience of competing in a championship environment. It will help enhance and promote the brand of both our conference and our member institutions to a national audience, and it will add another opportunity to showcase our top teams each year in a highly competitive FBS conference.”
Still to be determined are a corportate sponsor or sponsors for the game and television exposure for the championship contest. As the major television rights holder, ESPN has the right of first refusal for the title game. CBSSportsNetwork, Fox Sports or the American Sports Network would be possibilities if ESPN chooses not to exercise its right.
It also has to be determined just how this game will affect scheduling of Sun Belt national TV games. Weeknight football is part of the Sun Belt landscape and multiple exposures have forced schools to play into the first weekend in December, which is the date that the conference title games are held.
Benson acknowledged there would be a challenge in making it work but suggested "we really don't want to be playing conference games on the day other schools are hosting their championship games."