Sun Belt Media Day

July 17, 2012 · By · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference 

The Sun Belt Conference held their Media Day yesterday, a day before the SEC begins their three-day media day festivities. ESPN3 covered the Sun Belt Media Day and the video is available to view, see links below.

As part of the 2012 SBC Media Day, the Sun Belt released their preseason coaches poll where the Jags were ranked last. Team name, total points and first place votes in parentheses.

  1.  Florida International 92 (5)
  2. Arkansas State 85 (2)
  3. Louisiana-Lafayette 81 (2)
  4. Western Kentucky 70 (1)
  5. Troy 60
  6. Louisiana-Monroe 47
  7. Middle Tennessee 42
  8. North Texas 36
  9. Florida Atlantic 23
  10. South Alabama 14

The Sun Belt made the headlines a few times since last football season. They will lose two schools, Florida International and North Texas, to Conference-USA, but will add three schools two of which sponsor football. Georgia State and Texas State both sponsor football and Texas-Arlington which does not sponsor football.

Plus Commissioner Wright Waters retired as conference commissioner and was replaced by former WAC commissioner Karl Benson.

Benson took the podium at Media Day wearing a shirt with a different Sun Belt logo tan other conference staff members wore. It had bright yellow lettering with “Sun Belt” in all capital letters with the S and B in larger type.

He said, “We’re anticipating a branding analysis. We will evaluate the current logo. I see a bring future for the Sun Belt Conference and I hope you got the subliminal meeting.”

Later he said, “In my mind, the Sun Belt came out as a big winner in realignment and conference shuffling. Adding Georgia State, Texas State and UT-Arlington clearly put the Sun Belt in a strong position for the future.”

“The competitive gap between us and others has shrunk considerably,” Benson said. “The Sun belt is poised to contend to become the best of the so-called ‘Non-AQ conferences’, which are our peer conferences.”

Benson also mentioned how the Sun Belt Conference has put attention on lowering travel expenses and getting student-athletes back on campus quicker and also fostering closer regional rivalries. This will help with ticket revenues for all schools.

Also on hand were the head coaches of Texas State and Georgia State, both former head coaches at the University of Alabama, Dennis Franchione and Bill Curry. Their schools will join the Sun Belt in July of 2013.

See below for school specific information.

South Alabama head coach Joey Jones enters his fourth season (fifth year) where he has started a program from scratch and will now play it’s first full Sun Belt schedule. He has put together one of the top staffs in the nation and together they have reached it’s 85 player scholarship limit in their four-year period. They have also lent their hand to fundraise money for the program and oversaw the construction of a $10 Million dollar football field house. On the field, the results have surpassed the supporters wildest dreams as they finished 17-0 over their first two seasons and 23-4 in all three seasons of competition. Senior Linebacker Jake Johnson was the player representative for the Jaguars. He led the Jags with 83 tackles in his first season as a starter in 2011. He also had a school game-record of 17 tackles against Kent State last season then led the team with 12 tackles against Texas-San Antonio in their double-overtime win. He also tied for the team lead with eight tackles against NC State.

Arkansas State’s head coach Hugh Freeze was hired by Ole Miss to fill their coaching vacancy. The Red Wolves hired former Auburn Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn to fill their vacancy. Quarterback Ryan Aplin was the player attendee for ASU. In his three seasons he has already broken the school record for career completions and is currently second place in career total offense and passing yards, third in passing touchdowns and fifth in rushing touchdowns.

Florida Atlantic’s Howard Schnellenberger retired after last season where his team went 1-11 but opened a new football stadium. Schnellenberger was the only head coach in it’s 11 year existence as he was hired to start the program. Carl Pelini was named as his successor in December. Pelini served as his brother’s defensive coordinator at Nebraska and was nominated for the Frank Broyles Assistant Coach Award in both 2009 and 2010. David Hinds was the player representative. He led the team in tackles and finished second in the Sun Belt with 9.2 tackles per game.

Florida International was able to keep their head coach in the offseason as Mario Cristobal’s name floated around for a few head coach openings. Cristobal is only the second coach in Panther history and has earned the reputation for being one of the country’s best recruiters. He has taken the Panthers to their first winning season in 2010 (7-6) to their first bowl game (a 34-32 victory over Toledo in the 2010 Little Ceasers Bowl) and was named the 2010 SBC Coach Of The Year. Then in 2011 the Pathers had their first player drafted in the NFL draft. In 2011 FIU went 8-5 with an overtime win over Troy and a loss to Marshall in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. Jonathan Cyprien was the player representative. Cyprien was named to the All-SBC Second Team in 2011.

Lousiana-Lafayette also was able to keep their coach after his named was floated around for a couple job openings. He led the Ragin’ Cajuns to their first bowl game in 41 years where they defeated San Siego State with a last-second 32-30 win. He turned the program around from a nine-loss season in 2010 to a school-record tying nine-win season in 2011. Blaine Gautier was the player representative for the Cajuns. He set season records in 2011 for yards passing, passing touchdowns, completion percentage, total offense and touchdowns responsible for as a Junior among other game records throughout the season.

Louisana-Monroe Warhawks head Coach Todd Berry heads into his third season as the Warhawk coach. Last season they had six players named to the All-SBC team after the season. Brent Leonard was the player representative. He had 69 receptions for the third most in a single season in Warhawk history.

Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders head coach Rick Stockstill is a two-time SBC Coach of the Year recipient during his six seasons there. Since he has been there they have won a conference title and won the 2009 New Orleans Bowl. They have made three bowls in his six years. They have also appeared on national television a Sun Belt Conference best 18 times. Omar McLendon was the player representative. He started all 12 games and lead all defensive linemen with 867 snaps. He had a career best 54 tackles for the season.

North Texas Mean Green is the other team that will leave the Sun Belt next year to join Conference USA. McCarney was named head coach in November 2010 and went 5-7 in his first season. That mark was the most wins by a first-year head coach at North Texas since 1994 and tied for sixth most by a first-year coach with UNT ever. It was also the most conference wins by North Texas since 2004. Zach Orr was the player representative and set a career high in tackles with 74 even though he missed the final three games with an injury.

Troy Trojans head Coach Larry Blakeney enters his 22nd season as the head coach at Troy. He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 and has been named to four Halls of Fame throughout his career including being the first selected to be enshrined in the inaugural Troy Athletics Hall of Fame in August 2012. He was the forefront of moving the entire athletics program at Troy from Division II, through Division I-AA to Division I-A. His program has been recognized regularly by the American Football Coaches Association for high graduation rates. In the spring of 2011, the playing surface at Troy’s home stadium was named after him to be forever known as Larry Blackeney Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Corey Robinson was the player representative. He is in the top 10 in numerous Troy career categories.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers head coach Wille Taggart is entering his third season at the helm of his alma mater. After leading the team to only two wins in his first two seasons, his 2011 team started 0-4 but won seven of the remaining eight games to finish 7-5. The only loss over that stretched was to #1 ranked LSU and finished 7-1 in the Sun Belt to finish second in the league. Jack Doyle was the player representative for the Hilltoppers. He was named to the 2011 All-SBC second team. He set career highs in receptions and receiving yards.

Link to ESPN video, viewing ability is subject to your ISP and ESPN.

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