New Mexico State, Idaho Get the Boot From the Sun Belt
The days of football-only membership in the Sun Belt Conference are coming to an end.
The league announced today that they will end their relationship with New Mexico State and Idaho, effective at the end of the 2017 season.
"We made the decision based on what was best for the Sun Belt Conference," Commissioner Karl Benson said.
The writing was on the wall after the NCAA announced they would no longer require a twelve member league in order to sanction a league championship game. The Big 12 and the Sun Belt Conference are the only FBS conferences that do not have at least twelve football playing schools.
"We have the option of playing a round robin schedule with our ten schools (nine games) or splitting into two divisions and play eight games," Benson said. That issue, along with whether to start up a championship game, will be discussed this spring. "The earliest you'd see it (championship game) would be 2017, although it would be more likely in 2018."
Neither Idaho nor New Mexico State had a winning season or even a break-even year since joining the league two years ago. Revenue distribution from the College Playoff is determined by strength of conference in comparison to other group of five leagues (American, Mountain West, Conference USA, Sun Belt, Mid-American.) Removing two teams with losing records actually strengthens the league from that standpoint.
Idaho has announced they will begin the process of making a decision as to whether to continue play as an independent or moving to the FCS and re-joining the Big Sky Conference.
No FBS school has ever moved to the FCS since the 1-A, 1-AA split was finalized in the mid 80's.
The Sun Belt added the schools originally to become a 12-team league, but Western Kentucky left to go to Conference USA, leaving eleven football playing schools. Coastal Carolina was announced as a new addition last August, but the deregulation ended the need for twelve football schools.