DESTIN, Fla. – With eyes set to the future, the Sun Belt Conference concluded its annual Spring Meeting in Destin, Florida on Wednesday.
“Over the last four days we have conducted a great deal of business and I can honestly say that this was a productive meeting surrounded by an attitude that we are not interested in looking in the rearview mirror,” said Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson. “This meeting was exciting in that our new members were with us and they are eager to be in the Sun Belt. Their eagerness was met by support from our existing members – and that resulted in a great sense of unity.”
“We have never been as strong as we are now academically and financially and I believe we are getting stronger all the time athletically,” said Sun Belt Conference President and Troy University Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. “I truly believe that the best is yet to come.”
The Sun Belt Conference’s annual meetings include the senior staff of the conference office along with each member school’s Chief Executive Officer, Faculty Athletic Representative, Director of Athletics, Senior Woman Administrator, Head Football Coach, Head Men’s Basketball Coach and Head Women’s Basketball Coach. Representatives from members joining July 1, 2013 (Texas State, Georgia State and UT Arlington) were present at the meetings as well as members joining in July 1, 2014 (Appalachian State and Georgia Southern along with future football only members Idaho and New Mexico State).
Topics of discussion included conference membership, Sun Belt Conference and national leadership positions, branding, revenue distribution, scheduling models for basketball and the league’s basketball tournament formats, football scheduling models, television, postseason football bowl games, Sun Belt Conference Championship sites and member departure fees.
While there was discussion regarding the possibilities of additional members to the Sun Belt Conference, no members are being added at this time.
“There was and will continue to be ongoing discussion about national realignment and the membership options for the Sun Belt,” said Benson. “However, for the time being we are moving the conference forward with our membership as is. The most important thing to come out of the meeting regarding membership was that our institutions are committed to taking the Sun Belt to the next level. With our recent additions and the strength of our current members, the pieces are already in place for us to take the next step as a stronger conference.”
The Sun Belt Conference also made appointments to significant leadership positions at the meeting. There were several key positions that had terms expire or were vacated, filling these positions are:
Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Board of Managers - Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Troy Chancellor
Bowl Championship Series (BCS) AD Advisory Group – Terry Mohajir, Arkansas State Athletic Director
Sun Belt Conference President – Dr. Nick J. Bruno, Louisiana-Monroe President
Sun Belt Conference Vice President – Dr. Denise M. Trauth, Texas State President
Sun Belt Conference Treasurer – Dr. Joel E. Anderson, UALR Chancellor
Sun Belt Conference Chair of Athletic Directors – Scott Farmer, Louisiana-Lafayette Athletic Director
Sun Belt Conference Chair of Faculty Representatives – Fred Green, Troy Faculty Representative
College Football Playoff Revenue Distribution
The Sun Belt Conference revised a previously amended conference revenue distribution model for the College Football Playoff. The revision was needed due to a change in the base fund from the College Football Playoff and the number of institutions that will be competing in the Sun Belt Conference in the 2014 football season.
Football Revenue Distribution
The Sun Belt Conference developed a formula to distribute $600,000 in net revenue that was produced from the Sun Belt Conference’s four bowl games in 2012. The revenue will be distributed to the six football playing members eligible for end of year revenue distribution – Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Troy and Western Kentucky.
Sun Belt Conference Branding and Marketing
With the Sun Belt Conference having unveiled a new logo and branding campaign, the league has committed $50,000 to each institution to help implement the new logo for the upcoming academic year.
Men’s and Women’s Basketball Scheduling and Tournament Format
The Sun Belt Conference will continue to play a double round-robin schedule in both men’s and women’s basketball. Therefore, each team will play 18 games (nine home/nine away) starting with the 2014-15 basketball season.
The 2013 Sun Belt Conference Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships will feature the top eight teams from the regular season standings and not the entire membership. Additionally, the men’s tournament for 2013 will be conducted with byes to the quarterfinals for the third and fourth seeded teams, while the first and second seeded teams will receive byes to the semifinals. The 2013 women’s tournament will feature a more traditional eight-team bracket.
“We wanted to give our best teams, based on their performance throughout the regular season, the best chance to advance to the NCAA Tournament,” said Arkansas State Head Men’s Basketball Coach John Brady. “As coaches we feel that this format does that and makes regular season conference play more meaningful. We are interested in doing what is best for the league and advancing the league – this format is a way of doing so.”
“I think the new bracket format for the men’s basketball championship will help to make the regular season a lot more meaningful,” commented Georgia State Men’s Head Coach Ron Hunter. “For us, I think it is the fairest way to do it and rewards the top two teams for having great regular seasons. Extra rest and having to play one or two less games at that time of year can be extremely valuable when it comes to getting to the postseason. Also, I think it will create more to play for the last week of the season, whether it is trying to earn one of those two byes or just getting into the eight-team tournament.”
On the women’s side there was also a decision made regarding the days of regular season conference competition. Effective for the 2013-14 season, women’s basketball teams will play on Wednesday and Saturday for conference games. Exceptions can be made for television, facility conflicts, or a mutual agreement that a change of date is needed. This is a change from the past where women’s basketball games were competed Wednesday or Thursday and Saturday or Sunday.
The league membership discussed the importance of football scheduling and different philosophies on how to make the best possible conference and non-conference schedules. Ultimately, it was decided that the league will play eight conference games beginning in the 2014 football season.
“One of the things that we have seen in non-conference play is the over scheduling of guarantee games,” said Dr. Hawkins. “It is a mistake to fill a schedule with guarantee games - we must put ourselves in the position to win as many games as possible.”
Postseason Football Bowl Games
Representatives from the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and the GoDaddy.com Bowl attended the meetings. While those two bowl games will continue to be a home for Sun Belt teams in the postseason, the Sun Belt is actively in pursuit of additional bowl opportunities.
“We are in discussions with representatives from two bowl sites and I am optimistic about the potential for a third bowl game for the Sun Belt beginning in the 2014 season,” said Benson. “There is a chance that we could be announcing a third bowl game as soon as this summer.”
“One of the most important things we will do in the near future is provide more opportunities for our teams to play in bowl games,” said Dr. Hawkins. “I am encouraged by the ongoing discussions that we have had to make this possible.”
Sun Belt Conference Championship Sites
The following sites were selected to host Sun Belt Conference Championships for 2013-14:
Women’s Golf – Steelwood Country Club, Loxley, Ala.
Men’s Golf – Grand Bear Golf Course, Saucier, Miss.
Men’s and Women’s Tennis – City Park Tennis Center, New Orleans, La.
The following sites were selected to host Sun Belt Conference Championships for 2014-15:
Cross Country – South Alabama, Mobile, Ala.
Soccer – South Alabama, Mobile, Ala.
Volleyball – Texas State, San Marcos, Texas
Outdoor Track and Field – Louisiana-Lafayette, Lafayette, La.
Softball – Texas State, San Marcos, Texas
Baseball – Troy, Troy, Ala.