NEW ORLEANS - The new Sun Belt is finally here.
Over a year after their respective invitations to join the SBC, Georgia State, Texas State and UT Arlington are officially members of the now 10 team league as the July 1, 2013 join date has finally come.
"We have been anticipating this day for quite some time," said Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson. "A lot of hard work has been put in by the administrators around the Sun Belt and at these three institutions. It is very rewarding to see that hard work pay off. And while we take a moment to reflect on the process that has gotten us here, we also take focus on what this day means for us moving forward. There is no longer any time to look in the rearview mirror. With the membership that is joining us today, and the membership that will join us on July 1, 2014, we know that this conference will continue to rise in all aspects and our future is unquestionably bright."
The Sun Belt Conference will now contest the 2013 football season with eight members - Arkansas State, Georgia State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Texas State, Troy and Western Kentucky University. UALR and UT Arlington compete as non-football members. Come the 2014 season, the Sun Belt will have four new members in the league as Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will officially join as all-sports members and Idaho and New Mexico State will be added as football playing members.
The Sun Belt Conference is a member of the 10-league alliance of the Bowl Championship Series and soon-to-be College Football Playoff. This past season the SBC sent four teams to postseason bowl games - the league's highest total since it began sponsoring football in 2001. The SBC also posted a 7-2 record against Conference USA and tallied the highest non-conference win total in league history (19). This success led to the conference having its highest ever ranking in the BCS computer poll average - finishing ahead of both CUSA and the Mountain West Conference.
League-champion Arkansas State defeated #25 Kent State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl 17-13 and Louisiana-Lafayette won its second consecutive R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl with a 43-34 victory over Conference USA's East Carolina. The SBC has won four consecutive R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl games and six out of the last seven New Orleans Bowls with opponents having come from CUSA, the Mid-American Conference and the MWC.
The conference also recently unveiled its new logo and brand after a nearly yearlong examination of the impact, sustainability and core values associated with the Sun Belt Conference. "Together We Rise" is the new mantra for the conference and it is the foundation and essence of the contemporary logo that the league will now be identified with.
Located in downtown Atlanta, Georgia State University is one of the nation's leading urban research institutions. GSU is the second-largest university in the state of Georgia with more than 32,000 students. Georgia State is celebrating its centennial in 2013.
Georgia State has captured 53 conference team titles in 14 sports, 35 NCAA Championships berths for 11 teams and 47 individual NCAA Championships berths among eight sports.
In 2012-13, the men's tennis team earned the automatic bid to the NCAA's as Sun Belt Champions and the women's cross country team won the Sun Belt title. Individually, women's cross country runner Katharine Showalter qualified for the NCAA Championships, tennis players Victor Valente and Abigail Tere-Apisah earned NCAA singles bids, as well as doubles bids with partners Lucas Santa Ana and Masa Grgan to the NCAA Championships. Men's golfer Jonathan Grey earned a spot in the NCAA Regionals.
Georgia State will sponsor 14 Division I intercollegiate sports in the Sun Belt Conference: football, baseball, men's and women's basketball, women's cross country, men's and women's golf, softball, women's soccer, men's and women's tennis, women's indoor and outdoor track and field, and women's volleyball.
President Mark P. Becker
"Our official entry into the Sun Belt Conference is another milestone in the upward trajectory of Georgia State University. We look forward to a high level of competition in all sports and the development of intense rivalries that we hope engender increased pride, interest and involvement among our alumni, students, faculty and staff."
Director of Athletics Cheryl L. Levick
"This is an exciting day for Georgia State University, the Athletic Department and its students, alumni and fans. The Sun Belt Conference is a great conference and Commissioner Karl Benson has a strong vision for its future. We look forward to playing a leadership role in the growth of the Sun Belt and to developing regional rivalries with the league schools close to Atlanta. With the conference transition now complete, our focus will turn to a successful move into FBS football and to winning as many Sun Belt championships as possible."
Head Football Coach Trent Miles
"This is a tremendous opportunity for Georgia State University and especially for our football program. With the leadership of Karl Benson, the Sun Belt Conference is just going to continue to take off. From a football standpoint, this conference has so many great coaches and players. We look forward to building our program into one that will compete for Sun Belt titles."
Head Men's Basketball Coach Ron Hunter
"Our program is extremely excited to be joining the Sun Belt Conference. The conference has a great group of coaches who want to make the league one of the best in basketball. It is an exciting time to be a part of the conference and we are glad to be joining it now."
Head Women's Basketball Coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener
"The skilled coaches and talented players of the Sun Belt have given women's basketball a proud tradition and respected name. It will be exciting for Georgia State to develop new rivalries and see some new cities and fans. I think it is great that the Sun Belt combines the men's and women's tournaments at the same time in the same city. That's fantastic for fans. And, the schedule format is balanced and fair with everyone playing equal schedules to determine the seeds. We are delighted to be rising with the new Sun Belt."
Texas State, located in San Marcos between Austin and San Antonio, is home to over 34,000 students and officially opened its doors in 1903. Notably, Texas State is the only university in Texas to have graduated a U.S. president: Lyndon B. Johnson, class of 1930.
The Texas State athletics program currently consists of 16 varsity programs including the football team coached by Dennis Franchione. The Bobcats began their first season at the Football Bowl Subdivision level in 2012 and will be eligible to compete for football conference champions and bowl games immediately as they begin Sun Belt play.
Recently reclassified as an Emerging Research University, the Bobcats currently meets all standards with the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate (APR) and enjoyed its best single academic year in 2011-12 as eight teams posted scores of 1,000. Texas State has a budget of $25 million. San Marcos is located in the Austin metro area, which is the 47th largest designated market area (DMA) in the United States.
Texas State will sponsor 16 Division I intercollegiate sports in the Sun Belt Conference: football, baseball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's golf, softball, women's soccer, women's tennis, men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field, and women's volleyball.
President Denise M. Trauth
"Texas State's entry into the Sun Belt represents a major milestone for our intercollegiate athletics program. We look forward to exciting new rivalries with the other Sun Belt schools."
Director of Athletics Larry Teis
"We are very excited to join the Sun Belt Conference. If you look at their success the past few years, the league has improved tremendously in all areas. Last season they had four bowl teams in football and recently four teams played in the NCAA post-season baseball tournament. Geographically, we are also in a conference with two teams from Texas, two from Arkansas, and two from Louisiana. Teams in the East are also nice places for our fans to visit and provide us additional regions to recruit quality student-athletes.'
Head Football Coach Dennis Franchione
"Joining Sun Belt Conference this year is exciting for us because it is a conference where I feel we will be for a while and that is good for us. The geography is a good fit for us and we have a history with Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette and Troy. It is a good football conference with four bowl teams from last season coming back. We are excited about the opportunity to play them."
Head Men's Basketball Coach Danny Kaspar
"This is an exciting time for Texas State athletics. Our inclusion in the Sun Belt Conference will bring exciting competition to San Marcos. It should provide for many sensational football, basketball and baseball contests."
Head Women's Basketball Coach Zenarae Antoine
"Moving into the Sunbelt conference is exciting for Bobcat Women's Basketball. The Sunbelt Conference traditionally has had multiple programs have post season play and they have consistently won games in head-to-head matches with BCS level programs."
UT Arlington is the second-largest institution in the University of Texas System, is the sixth-largest institution in the state of Texas and is the 33rd largest institution in the United States.
UTA athletics currently competes in 14 varsity sports at the NCAA Division I level and impressively has invested over $80 million in athletic facility improvements. Additionally, UTA has planned another $17 million in athletic facility improvements and renovations for the next several years. The crown jewel of UTA's athletic facility enhancements is the brand new $78 million, 218,000-square-foot College Park Center.
UT Arlington will sponsor 14 Division I intercollegiate sports in the Sun Belt Conference: baseball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, men's golf, softball, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field, and women's volleyball.
President Vistasp M. Karbhari
"We are honored and excited to join the Sun Belt Conference. I believe this represents an extraordinary opportunity for UT Arlington to continue on its journey to even greater athletic excellence. This is a tremendous opportunity for our student-athletes."
Director of Athletics Jim Baker
"This is another watershed moment for our institution and athletic department. Our move to the Sun Belt Conference promotes stability in a regional conference with like-minded universities, while providing our student-athletes and coaches competition at the highest levels."
Head Men's Basketball Coach Scott Cross
"We're really looking forward to the move to the Sun Belt Conference. We're a team that bonds on the road and we're excited about traveling to new arenas throughout the Sun Belt. From a basketball standpoint, the league brings back a lot of talent across the board. We're going to need to bring our 'A' game every night and I believe our guys are up to that challenge. We can't wait to get started."
Head Women's Basketball Coach Krista Gerlich
"I am excited for the move to the Sun Belt Conference for UT Arlington. I think particularly in women's basketball the Sun Belt is highly competitive and one of the stronger mid-major conferences in the country. It will be a nightly battle amongst our teams in conference play and the competition to reach the conference tourney will be fierce. The Sun Belt historically has had great representation in the NCAA tourney, so I am excited for the challenge to get UTA in the mix."