The ‘Belt has lost a couple of notches
Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 18:11
Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee State announced Tuesday they will leave the Sun Belt Conference to join Conference USA beginning in 2014. The move comes after North Texas and Florida International declared in May they will join C-USA next year.
The departures leave the Sun Belt, which has 11 members for the 2012-13 academic year, with just seven, and the conference will add Georgia State, Texas State, and Texas Arlington in 2013 to assuage the damage. The SBC also lost non-football member Denver to the Western Athletic Conference in July.
Georgia State and Texas State will join in all sports, while Texas Arlington be admitted in all sports sans football, in which it does not participate. C-USA has been aggressive in replacing teams it lost over the past year to the Big East. The Big East has expanded after losing Rutgers, West Virginia, TCU, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame in part by swiping Memphis, SMU, Houston, Central Florida, Tulane, and East Carolina from C-USA.
The shifts are part of a broader series of conference realignments across the nation, as the need to tap into diverse television markets and strengthen athletic brands has galvanized the six BCS conferences.
As the largest conferences have rapidly expanded, the mid-majors have been forced to do to the smaller powers what the big conferences did to them, hence the blow to the Sun Belt’s ranks.
While the Sun Belt loses its presence in Tennessee and Florida, it plants its spear into Georgia and expands its influence in Texas. All three schools joining in 2013 sport enrollments twice as large as ASU’s.