The NCAA’s decision to deregulate conference championship games puts the first wheel in motion. But that wheel isn’t the Big 12 or the ACC. It’s the Sun Belt Conference.
Idaho and New Mexico State will no longer be a part of the Sun Belt Conference after the 2017 football season, a source told FOX Sports on Tuesday morning.
The Vandals are 6-29 the past three years and 5-18 in their two seasons in the SBC. The Aggies are 7-29 the past three seasons and 5-19 in their two seasons in the Sun Belt.
The announcement is expected to be made official later Tuesday afternoon.
“We are disappointed by the Sun Belt’s decision,” Idaho president Chuck Staben said in a statement, confirming that the Vandals were voted out of the conference. “But we are optimistic about the options before us, and we are continuing to diligently consider our future affiliation as an opportunity to find the stability and full participation we have not experienced in the Sun Belt. We will make a decision in the coming months.”
Yeah, good luck with that, Chuck. I’m sure you’ll find all sorts of D-1 conferences falling all over themselves to have you join.
It’s an entirely sensible move on the part of the Sun Belt. Those two schools are outside of the conference’s geographic footprint and were added for the purpose of having twelve teams in order for the Sun Belt to have the option of its own championship game. Remove that rationale and it’s hard to justify the expense of a sprawling group of schools.
The NCAA’s deregulation of conference championship games figured into the Sun Belt’s decision according to commissioner Karl Benson. The Sun Belt can now proceed with a league championship game — if it prefers — with 10 teams. Previously, leagues needed at least 12 teams split into two six-team divisions to stage such a game.
Benson said the earliest the league could add a championship game is ’17 but more likely would come in 2018. No decision has been made on venue. The Big 12 and Sun Belt remain the only FBS leagues not to have championship games.
“This will bring it to a head,” Benson said of the championship game decision.
It’s not only logical from the expense side. Kicking out two teams means cutting the revenue pie into fewer slices.
Benson said a 2013 financial decision by the Group of Five schools drove the move. That year, the Group of Five conferences decided each of the leagues would receive up to $12 million in College Football Playoff distribution based on a maximum of $1 million per school.
That maximum was later changed to $10 million which made it easier for the Sun Belt to shrink its membership. With Idaho and New Mexico State, the Sun Belt has been ranked last among the Group of Five conferences in recent years, Benson said.
Is this likely to be the only such move by a mid-major conference? Given the math involved, I suspect not.