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Looks like the ball's in your court, Sun Belt

Looks like the ball's in your court, Sun Belt

Looks like the ball's in your court, Sun Belt


There’s more than a basketball tournament brewing this weekend in Hot Springs, Ark., where the Sun Belt Conference brass will converge.
    Administrators from the conference’s current members will meet in a dark, smoky room, around a large oak table carved with an ornate Sun Belt logo (that’s how I picture it, anyway) to hash out the future of their Football Bowl Subdivision league.
    According to a former colleague of mine, Chad Bishop, the Western Kentucky beat writer for the Bowling Green Daily News, the possibility of adding future members, specifically Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, James Madison, Delaware, Idaho or New Mexico State, among others, will be discussed, along with the possibility of keeping things where they are now.
    Currently, the Sun Belt has 10 members, eight of which field football teams.
    Of course, the way things have been changing lately, that number may not be the same in the foreseeable future, either.
    So, what does that mean for Georgia Southern?
    Nothing, maybe.
    But if the Sun Belt presidents decide that GSU is a good fit, it could mean that an invitation could be coming before the 2013 football season even kicks off.
    Everybody in the Eagle Nation knows why Georgia Southern would be a good fit for the Sun Belt.
    Up-and-coming academics, a constantly growing student body, great football, passionate fans, great baseball, good Olympic sports and a good rivalry for Georgia State, which will officially join the Sun Belt this summer — what’s not to love?
    But, would the Sun Belt be a good fit for GSU?
    Let’s look at where the Eagles are now. They’re in the Southern Conference, a league with like-minded institutions like Furman, Elon, Samford, Wofford, The Citadel and Davidson.
    And by “like-minded,” I mean “total opposite of GSU.”
    Really, the only SoCon programs the Eagles have anything in common with — large, regional, public universities — are Appalachian State, Chattanooga and Western Carolina, and maybe, even though they don’t play football, UNC Greensboro.
    College of Charleston is even more of a stretch, and they’re leaving the SoCon for the Colonial Athletic Association, anyway.
    Western Carolina students sometimes forget there are athletics on campus, Chattanooga is in a major city — which sometimes forgets there are athletics on campus (outside of the basketball season) — and Appalachian State is just as ready to get out of the SoCon as GSU.
    Also, let’s face it, GSU is a football school.
    The SoCon is a Football Championship Subdivision conference, which means while most of America is watching bowl games, a few loyal fans and curious outsiders are watching the FCS playoffs.
    And the SoCon’s television deal doesn’t get any games on television, just an online channel that many internet providers don’t even offer.
    So, what about the Sun Belt?
    Well, they got four teams into Bowl games last season. According to Neilsen Ratings, bowl games, no matter how “irrelevant,” pretty much always rate higher than FCS playoff games, including the national championship.
    Also, the Sun Belt has a television deal that actually puts football games, well, on television.
    There’s nothing wrong with the FCS, but it’s just a niche market in the landscape of college football, and moving up is clear-cut progress.
    Georgia Southern came to the FCS (then I-AA) in 1984. It saw. It conquered. And it’s time to move on. The six national championships and countless playoff appearances have done wonders for the program and provided countless memories.
    Speaking of memories, remember those great playoff games against Nevada, Arkansas State, Western Kentucky, Troy, Middle Tennessee State, UMass, Marshall, Texas State and Old Dominion? Remember when the Eagles used to beat up on UCF and Florida International?
    Well, those days are over, because all of those teams already made the move.
    UCF forgot about its abysmal record against Georgia Southern, probably around the time it beat UGA in the Liberty Bowl.
    This weekend, at the Sun Belt basketball tournament, the ball is in the Sun Belt’s court — no pun intended. It’s up to them if they want to extend an invitation. Even if they decide to do that, it would more than likely be a while before it’s official.
    The only other option, one that has been discussed by other FBS hopefuls, is starting a brand-new conference, which is great if you’re into logistical nightmares, no revenue and no NCAA postseason appearances for anybody in the foreseeable future.
    So for Georgia Southern, the Sun Belt appears to be the only option to increase the footprint of the university athletically.
    The only other real option is staying in the FCS and being, at best, an asterisk on the college football season on a national scale.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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