Where To, Sun Belt – From the Bird’s Nest
What I’m about to say isn’t going to be very popular among my Sun Belt brethren.
It also may not be popular in the conference office, although they understand not to take things personally.
Middle Tennessee is leaving the Sun Belt.
And Florida Atlantic is right behind.
Already the message boards and fans everywhere are speculating where the Sun Belt turns from here.
Since both defections are from the eastern side of the Sun Belt, most conventional wisdom would lead you to believe invitations for Georgia Southern and Appalachian State are right around the corner. And, that could be the case. Certainly, fans of both schools are expecting it. In fact, some of them would tell you the two schools would rule Sun Belt football beginning the day they join.
But not if I’m driving this train.
I was pretty outspoken last year when Texas State and Georgia State were announced that I was dead set against adding more FBS startup programs. South Alabama is finishing their transition this year.
That’s three newbies.
Down the road, the Sun Belt might be forced to be the “give me your tired your poor” of FCS schools.
But this league isn’t in the position yet.
Yes, I know. Georgia Southern and Appalachian State are fine institutions. And, in football they are two of the best in the FCS, traditionally.
But therein lies the problem. They’re FCS.
So if I’m running this league, I’m thinking outside the box. And outside the geography.
I’m calling Las Cruces and asking New Mexico State if they’re ready to come out of the wilderness.
New Mexico State doesn’t have a good football program. It’s possible Georgia Southern and App State are better.
That isn’t the point.
The point is, they LOOK better. Just as CUSA looked better to the Raiders and Owls…and would have to just about anyone else in the ‘Belt.
Sun Belt schools have made great strides in talent and recruiting the last few years. But can you hear the opposing recruiters now?????
“Son, why would you want to go to a league where half the teams are junior high?”
No, please don’t take me there.
New Mexico State is a much better name. Yes, it increases travel costs. But you don’t think it’s going to cost a pretty penny for the western half of this league to go to Statesboro and Boone?
And, here’s the other reason I’m calling the Aggies.
Hold your breath. The Belt hasn’t done this since 2002.
They’ll make Sun Belt Conference basketball better. Right away.
That’s right. Basketball. That’s the sport the Sun Belt was known for before we added teams whose programs were God-awful and who haven’t gotten much better since.
Basketball…that’s the sport where teams in conferences make money from NCAA tournament shares.
If you can’t find a team that’s going to make football better immediately, add a team with a name that can play hoops.
That team is New Mexico State. Take the geography and stick it.
Now, you might ask, what about the other opening?
Well, my answer is, who says you have to fill it?
The Sun Belt Conference can function nicely with nine football schools. Everyone plays everyone. It’s absolutely not an issue. Since the ‘Belt doesn’t have twelve, there’s no need for them to add for the sake of adding.
Eleven isn’t a good number for other sports, granted. But it’s not a killer, either. The Big Ten had eleven for a long time and did more than survive. It takes creative scheduling, but it can be done. And, if it’s that important for the league to have twelve in Olympic Sports, add a non-football school.
But in football, for the sake of perception, recruiting and growth as a conference, stay at nine. Help your basketball league get better.
Add New Mexico State.