Sun Belt Standing Pat

Earlier this spring, an article in the Miami Herald got tongues wagging when it stated that the Sun Belt was planning on adding at least one new member in the immediate future. The suspicions rested on former Sun Belt members Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State being offered a safe port instead of clinging to the capsized WAC, which has been raided to near destruction.

Not so long ago the WAC was considered a very strong mid-major conference. The backbone consisted of Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii. Within the last year all that has changed as those teams have left their conference home for either full or football only (Hawaii) membership in the MWC. The WAC had already added former Sun Belt member Denver, who was forced out of the SBC in amiable fashion for failing to offer enough sports. In full scale scramble mode, the WAC repeated former offers to ULL, Arkansas State and UNT to join, but, not being bent on their own destruction, those universities turned them down. After Montana of the Big Sky did the same, Karl Benson, commissioner of the WAC was forced to add FCS member Texas State and UT-San Antonio, who is about to embark on their first season of college football. With his conference on life support, Benson undoubtedly had to fear a final raid that might come courtesy of the conference he had tried to raid first, the Sun Belt.

The Miami Herald article had reported that sources claimed that FBS schools in the Sun Belt's geographic footprint had reached out about possibly joining the conference. With that description as a guide, La Tech and NMSU were the only real candidates (particularly Tech), as every other FBS program in the South was already affiliated with a conference considered superior to the SBC. It seems very likely that one or both of these schools did make contact with the Sun Belt, but today Wright Waters set the record straight for the immediate future in comments to Dan McCarney of the UTSA blog of mysanantonio.com.

"I can tell you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, nobody in an official position has had any contact with anybody, Louisiana Tech or anybody else," Waters told mysanantonio.com. "We're not afraid of that, but any expansion would have to bring huge value to our league."

Further, Waters revealed that ULL, ULM, ASU and UNT were all offered WAC memberships recently and refused.

"All four have called and said, ‘Just to let you know, they've called, but we're not interested,'" he said according to mysanantonio.com. "I'm not worried about it. We've kind of moved on. There are other issues to worry about."

It is amusing to note that Waters said that ULM had been offered a WAC membership when it is the presence of the Warhawks in the Sun Belt that has been the biggest deterrent to Louisiana Tech rejoining his conference.

It is not unlikely that all the talk of conference movement involving the SBC has been squashed by the surprising developments of the Villanova/Big East soap opera. Villanova, already a member of the Big East in all sports except for football, had decided to accept an offer to add their football program to the conference when the BE suddenly reversed course and retracted the invitation because of Villanova's football facilities plan. Since the BE had already added TCU, it was widely considered that the Villanova move was the only other that they would make and that the rest of the non-BCS conferences were not in danger of being raided for more teams. When Villanova was refused entry, all bets were off.

Now there are several schools in CUSA that are suddenly in play for the coveted invitation to a BCS conference. Should CUSA lose one or two teams, then several programs in the SBC and perhaps even Louisiana Tech (although unlikely as they have been passed over before) might get a chance to join CUSA. With the situation now so dynamic, it appears that everyone has decided to keep dancing with their current partners until the music stops again.

Conference realignment has been a hot issue for the last couple of years, particularly for the programs of the non-BCS conferences as they see opportunities to move up the food chain. Although this Sun Belt expansion scenario seems to have stalled out at the moment, rest assured that in days, week, months and years to come there will be plenty of movement in the college ranks.

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