Jack Hopkins of BobcatReport.com reported Monday night that “multiple sources confirmed” Texas State is Sun Belt-bound. The move won’t come as much of a surprise to those who have followed the developments involving 2012 members in recent days.
The Bobcats’ move makes five of the remaining seven WAC members finding landing spots for 2013. Left are Idaho (covered in greater depth here) and New Mexico State. The current outlook isn’t great for either, but all this movement is unfolding rapidly. There are still opportunities for the Vandals and Aggies to secure an FBS home.
The BobcatReport.com twitter account tweeted the below image, illustrating the new look of the Sun Belt Conference.
Here is the overall make-up of what is currently known as the non-BCS conference landscape for 2013.
East Carolina, FIU, Marshall, UAB, Southern Miss, North Texas, Tulsa, UT-San Antonio, Rice, Tulane, Louisiana Tech, UTEP
C-USA has replaced all of the four members it lost to the Big East (Memphis, UCF, SMU, Houston). Further expansion would not serve much purpose, unless C-USA has designs on 16 teams.
MTSU is in the Nashville television market, but does not appear to be in the fold. Charlotte provides a new, big market presence but has a transitional period beginning in 2013.
Appalachian State’s feasibility study in 2011 recommended pursuit of FBS membership. ASU has a solid fan base, regularly drawing attendance that ranks at the very top of the Championship Subdivision.
Ultimately though, C-USA is likely to stand pat for now.
Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Akron, Buffalo, Bowling Green, Ball State, Ohio, Miami U., UMass, Toledo, Kent State, Western Michigan
The MAC finally reached even numbers, albeit fleetingly. The addition of UMass gave the conference 14, but Temple’s departure for the Big East dropped it back to 13. Logically, at least one more member would make sense.
Assuming Army remains committed to independence, Idaho might be the most intriguing option. UI is separated from the westernmost MAC member by nearly 1800 miles, certainly a contentious issue. It might be UI’s best chance at remaining FBS.
The possibility of going to the Atlantic Coast could extend the MAC’s reach back into the CAA, where it secured UMass from. Delaware is a regular contender in the FCS with high attendance figures. The Blue Hens would be an intriguing possibility for FBS movement. UD’s CAA partner Villanova showed interest in joining the FBS during the previous round of conference realignment; with the MAC losing the Philadelphia market via Temple’s departure, VU would bring that metropolis back into the league’s demographic.
Colorado State, Hawai’i, Nevada, UNLV, Fresno State, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah State, Air Force, San Jose State
Much is still contingent on the rumored C-USA/MWC partnership. Talks cooled earlier this month, but the splitting of MWC television properties after The Mtn. closes its doors makes it a natural fit; CBS Sports is rumored to be taking on a sizable chunk of MWC programming, and CBS already hosts C-USA programming.
Further expansion isn’t absolutely necessary, and ideally the conference would only want to add members of value. The MWC has never been a large conference — in fact, it was formed because the members splintering from the WAC were displeased with its growth to 16. However, with the move to conference championship games across the country, the addition of two more seems inevitable.
Since these changes began, chatter of the MWC retaining Boise State and San Diego State grew. It’s best to put any such notions out of your mind, because spurning the Big East would result in a hefty exit fee despite never actually going to the Big East. Idaho and NMSU make obvious sense: the MWC already has a New Mexico member, and is currently home to one in Idaho.
Expansion for expansion’s sake wouldn’t do the MWC much good, and the lack of success UI and NMSU have had would make their additions just that. Montana is an intriguing possibility. Athletic director Jim O’Day stood firm on remaining in FCS, in part because of UM’s longstanding rivalry with Montana State. O’Day was dismissed in March, potentially re-opening the door for FBS talks. MSU is coming off consecutive NCAA Playoff appearances, and in 2011 drew over 100,000 fans at home games to rank No. 17 in the FCS. Perhaps the package would be a worthwhile addition to the MWC fold.
Troy, La.-Lafayette, La.-Monroe, Texas State, FAU, Georgia State, MTSU, South Alabama, Arkansas State, Western Kentucky
Pre-existing member Arkansas-Little Rock and new addition UT-Arlington complicate matters, because they give every other Sun Belt sport a nice, round 12. However, expansion of two more football playing institutes would allow the Sun Belt to host a conference championship game, and that’s all the rage now.
UI and NMSU desperately need a conference, and both were SBC members. Travel poses issues, particularly for UI. UTA hosted football until 1985, and reintroducing the sport has been kicked around, but is nothing more than a pipe dream. The Sun Belt has options in FCS. Aforementioned Appalachian State could step into the SBC and compete immediately, but would the SBC be a significant enough upgrade to justify the increase in fees for more scholarships and stadium expansions.
Old Dominion’s had a wildly successful foray into football since relaunching the sport in 2009. ODU ranked No. 4 in attendance among all FCS programs last season, and reached the Playoffs in its first Colonial Athletic Association season. The Monarchs are in a recruiting hotbed, and have what appears to be a passionate fan base. ODU would be a worthwhile addition to the Sun Belt’s ranks.
Georgia Southern and Jacksonville State ranked just behind ODU in attendance last season. GSU is a standard bearer in FCS football, and JSU has seen an uptick in its on-field product recently. Both make geographic sense for the SBC.
Lamar is another program that reintroduced football recently, kicking off in 2010. I wrote a feature on LU’s first season for NCAA.com, at which time athletic director Billy Tubbs told me that FBS membership was something the university would entertain. The Cardinals would give Texas State a neighbor and natural rival for football. LU averaged a healthy 16,000-plus in attendance, ranking just behind fellow reclassifying programs Georgia State and South Alabama — both of which are Sun Belt-bound.