What would the summer be without perpetual Sun Belt realignment rumors? It seems like the rumor mill has heated back up again as outlined by Chad Washington of Sun Belt Today. The Sun Belt wants to have twelve full-time members to help facilitate an annual football championship game which means adding one more member to the fray.
Coastal Carolina has probably been the hottest name within the Sun Belt rumor mill this summer. The Chants recent success on the gridiron and on the basketball court certainly makes them enticing. Coastal obviously has the new HTC Center for basketball and is willing to rapidly expand their football stadium to meet FBS requirements. Coastal could close the geographic loop the Sun Belt has created over the past couple of years with the additions of Georgia State, Georgia Southern, and Appalachian State.
The Chants might also leave the biggest sting out of any departing member. Coastal continues to be the host of the Big South Basketball Tournament and basically bring a title sponsor to the table. While Big South fans might rejoice at the thought of moving the tournament away from Myrtle, it would definitely be an awkward situation. The Big South would drop to 10 teams, which is perfect for scheduling, but there remains the perpetual threat of Liberty bolting if they can find a home that wants them. Coastal's departure would hopefully put the Big South on the offensive beginning by making Kennesaw State a full member.
This one kind of came out of nowhere... The Mocs have been in the Southern Conference since 1976 and there has never been much serious chatter of them moving elsewhere. Sure they could do it and would be a great fit for a conference like the Sun Belt, but is it a great fit for UTC? It seems like the Mocs have a nice niche in the SoCon where they can basically compete in every sport. You also have to wonder if a school with the second smallest endowment in the SoCon would be willing to invest and increase their operating expenses to go to FBS.
Chattanooga could certainly make the jump but there intentions and plan going forward needs to be a little more clear. It seems as if the path the Sun Belt is looking to go may be to accelerated for the Mocs.
Eastern Kentucky's name has been on the periphery of Sun Belt rumors for years now, but it may seem like the Colonels chances are a little more serious now. EKU has been in the Ohio Valley Conference since 1948 but the nearly 16,000 student school is ready to go the next level and that's FBS football. The Colonels are one of three remaining charter members along with Murray State and Morehead State, and it might be hard to leave such tradition within their conference and their state. The case study for EKU could be Western Kentucky and certainly their move to the Sun Belt, and later Conference USA, has paid off. EKU would probably bring in the largest alumni-base and media markets (Lexington/Cincinnati) than any of the other candidates.
New Mexico State is currently an associate member in the Sun Belt, along with Idaho. Obviously the geography really doesn't make much sense here and a move for the Aggies to full-time membership would most likely come from fear. The Aggies have a nice setup right now in terms of making the NCAA Tournament for basketball. They are in the WAC with not much competition and then they have football covered by the Sun Belt. NMSU might push for full Sun Belt membership though to avoid the conference adding multiple members and then telling the Aggies and the Vandals to take a hike. It's an interesting situation to say the least.
For additional coverage of possible Sun Belt expansion, make sure you check out the football side at Underdog Dynasty.