Monday, December 10, 2012

Could Georgia Southern be on their way to the Sun Belt Conference?

Sources tell me that they are working it out.

College football’s realignment conversation for the Sun Belt is centered on Georgia Southern and will they be a part of the Sun Belt and the FBS. If not the Sun Belt Conference then who?

In recent weeks many moves within college football have taken place and many more are expected or speculated to happen, but where who knows. It could all be a surprise to everyone, because we really don’t know what college Presidents and AD’s are thinking or talking let alone conference commissioners.

The Sun Belt Conference lost two programs over the last couple of weeks in Middle Tennessee State and Florida Atlantic to Conference USA. The Sun Belt has been raided by CUSA twice now, first taking North Texas and FIU in the spring of this year and now MTSU and FAU.

Sun Belt Conference Commissioner has gone on the radio and other media outlets to say that he and the conference will address or discuss new additions to the conference early as last week.  Well until this day nothing has come from the Commissioner or the conference in reference to replacements.

Currently the conference sits at 10 members with MTSU, FAU, UNT and FIU. Once those programs leave the conference early as 2013, SBC will sit a 8 members with newly added Texas State and Georgia State.

Media reports and bloggers and many rumors continue to put Georgia Southern as the number one pick for an addition to the Sun Belt Conference, but there is nothing as of today to confirm that Georgia Southern will be added. Media reports and rumors also surface around Appalachian State of North Carolina as well; they to want to be in a FBS conference badly.

As always there is much rumors as speculations around every potential program, when there no known facts or confirmation on who is doing what and what is going to happen.

As a blogger for the Sun Belt Conference, I try and bring you my dedicated readers much informed information as possible whenever I can or get the news. I also have reached out to GA Southern AD and Commissioner Benson with the SBC, and have not gotten any answers from either one.  Except that AD Kleinlein is in a meeting whenever I call.

In April, GSU expressed a desire to move its football program from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivision. The school student body voted in favor of the move and to increase their student fees in support of such move.
Now that there are a couple of openings in the Sun Belt Conference, and it’s possible the SBC may be looking to get enough teams for a conference football championship game, Georgia Southern has reached out. Tom Kleinlein, the Eagles’ new athletics director, acknowledged placing calls to the Sun Belt Conference almost a couple of weeks ago “to open up the lines of communication.” Oh yes to open lines of communication. Umm?  “I’ve had conversations with (GSU president Brooks) Keel and some people involved with Sun Belt,” Kleinlein said. “Right now, my conversations have been minimal, more informational to Dr. Keel, what I see going on — nothing is solidified or solid yet. Tom Kleinlein also mentioned that he has talked with other conferences as well.
Well a source of mine inside of the Sun Belt Conference has informed me that Georgia Southern will be added. On this morning I finally got a word from someone inside of Georgia Southern saying there are serious talks and business aspects are being worked out, and told me to give it a week or so.  Well my source inside the SBC, informed me that they are waiting till the FCS playoff were over.
Remember when Kleinlein said this last week, “Obviously, with the movement in the Sun Belt the last couple of days, I imagine commissioner (Karl) Benson has been doing some things to get his conference in order and figure out what they’re going to do next,” Kleinlein said.
And not only that AD Kleinlein also said, “Obviously, there’s some leg work, some investigative work, some behind-the-scenes work that’s been done and I’m sure (GSU’s former AD) Sam (Baker) did a lot of it and he probably paved the way for a lot of the conversations that may come down the line in the next few weeks with conference realignment,” Kleinlein said.
We’ll be waiting to see if this really happens and when it happens. Will the SBC move to get back to 10 league members or will they stay at eight? Some gestures are they will expand to (12) to get to that conference football championship in FBS. Who will the SBC add with Georgia Southern if it’s true that they are coming to the SBC? Speculations have Appalachian State, Lamar and Liberty joining, but there are also rumors that the SBC may bring back New Mexico State and Idaho since they are established FBS programs and former members of the Sun Belt Conference. And then you have Sam Houston State out there in Texas as well, that is also in FCS playoff as we speak that may be a potential candidate for the SBC.  I have not received any word on App State joining the SBC, but they and their fans do want in a FBS conference badly.  
There is UT-Chattanooga out there that would be a great replacement for MTSU, and more of a geographic fit for the SBC with Georgia State, Georgia Southern and Western Kentucky if they stay around. The Sun Belt Conference also have to look out for Texas State on the west end of the conference, adding Sam Houston State or Lamar would be great.
On all these speculations, I will have to say that we all will have to wait and see what happens. But let me throw this in. I would like to see the SBC get more aggressive like other conferences. In my opinion I would like the SBC to go after UAB, Southern Miss and UTEP, would they want to be in the Sun Belt Conference? I am thinking they would not, but if they SBC would be more attractive and make more bowl deals and generate more revenue for its member’s schools then that would be an attractive reason to lure those programs to the SBC, then the answer would be yes, because what I am hearing is they do want out of CUSA.
CUSA is not all that of a good conference and why SBC schools are leaving for that conference is really unknown besides a better conference name and more bowl tie-ins. As I mentioned, CUSA is not a stable conference and the grass is not greener over there.
There is growth that can be made within the SBC and for its member institutions. The SBC can also make it more attractive for current and future members to stay in the Sun Belt Conference.
Before I leave here is what Commissioner Karl Benson had to say over the past week or so on all of this.
“While I am disappointed that Middle Tennessee State University and Florida Atlantic University have elected to depart the Sun Belt Conference, the SBC is still very well positioned for the future and I remain very optimistic that the momentum that has been created in the past six months will continue to grow. The continuing 10 members of the SBC are committed to excellence and I am confident that the SBC will take advantage of these latest changes in the landscape. As I have stated many times in the past six months, the SBC will be a major player in the future, especially within its geographic footprint.”
“As for future members, there are several outstanding universities that have indicated interest in joining the SBC. While we have conducted research on these universities in the past six months, we will now focus on identifying the ones that will be the best “fit” for the conference and the ones that will contribute immediately in achieving our goal of being the best of the FBS conferences that currently do not receive automatic qualification into the BCS.”
AD Kleinlein and Commissioner Benson statements sound somewhat the same.