Karl Benson Talks Answers Some Questions For AL.com

November 5, 2012 · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

Press-Register writer Tommy Hicks asked Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson five questions while he was in Mobile attending the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday.

He was also in town to present the conference championship trophy to the winner of the Women’s soccer Championship North Texas who defeated FIU in the championship match. South Alabama hosted this season’s championship tournament at The Cage.

You can view the questions and answers here.

Jags Ranked Ahead Of Auburn In Latest USA Today Article

October 29, 2012 · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 
Coach Joey Jones

Head Coach Joey Jones speaks to his team after the conclusion of the Jaguars first practice of preseason camp.

USA Today’s Paul Myerberg just published the article titled “NCAA football re-rank: Our list from 1-124” on the USA Today website with some interesting rankings. It was basically a given that the University of Alabama would top the list with other schools lining up behind them. Their top five in order is: Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Georgia.

But if you look towards the bottom of the list, you would probably expect see teams who are making their transition to FBS. But there are a few surprises down there.

South Alabama is ranked 110th in the list of all 124 FBS teams. They are ahead of Auburn University (111th) and in order from there Florida International, Colorado State, Akron, Tulane, Colorado, Memphis, Florida Atlantic, UAB, New Mexico State, Hawaii, Idaho, Southern Mississippi and UMass at 124. The Jags first opponent this season, Texas-San Antonio, is ranked 106.

Other Sun Belt schools are ranked: Louisiana-Monroe (43), Western Kentucky (52), Arkansas State (65), Middle Tennessee State (75), Louisiana-Lafayette (76), Troy (89), North Texas (95).

The Jags remaining games are against #112 FIU this weekend in Mobile, at #95 North Texas, vs #75 MTSU in Mobile, at #76 Louisiana-Lafayette before ending the season on the road against #121 Hawaii.

You can see the whole rundown on the USA Today website here.

Three Jaguar Men’s Basketball Players Name To All-SBC Team

October 25, 2012 · Filed Under Basketball, Men's, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

The South Alabama Men’s Basketball team had two players voted to the preseason All-Sun Belt Conference team on Wednesday. They also were picked to finish second in the Eastern Division.

Junior Augustine Rubit and seniors Javier Carter and Freddie Goldstein were chosen for the All-Sun Belt team. The Jags are tied for second most with Arkansas State behind Middle Tennesee State who had four.

Rubit returns as the top scorer in the Sun Belt Conference with an average of 15.2 points per game, 9.2 rebounds per game and 12 double-doubles last season to be the first Jaguar player named to the First Team All-Sun Belt Conference Team since 2008. His rebounding average led the conference and was 38th in the nation while finishing second in the conference in scoring.

Rubit was the 2010-2011 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and already ranks eighth in South Alabama school history in career rebounds with 576 and third in rebounding average with 10.1 per game.

Javier Carter and Freddie Goldstein were both third team selections. Carter blocked 72 shots with an average of 2.7 blocks per game which ranked 16th in Division I. Those 72 blocks are third in school history and ranks second place in school history with 132 in his career. He also averaged 6.1 points and 5 rebounds per game last season with two double-doubles.

Goldstein is the Sun Belt’s defending 3-point champion. He made 2.5 3-pointers per game last season and was second on the team in scoring with 11.7 per game. He set and tied the school record for 3-pointers in a game with nine and placed 15 in the conference in 3-point percentage (37.1%). He used his 3-point skill to become the first Jaguar to score 30 or more points in a game twice in a single season since the 2007-2008 season.

In the preseason poll of conference coaches the Jags were voted to finish second in the Eastern Division behind Middle Tennessee State. MTSU received all 11 first-place votes and 65 points while the Jags had 51 votes. Behind the Jags were Western Kentucky with 47, FAU with 29, Troy with 22 and FIU with 17.

In the western division North Texas was a unanimous pick with 55 points. Arkansas State had 40, UALR had 33, ULL had 24 and ULM had 13.

Sun Belt Conference Wraps Up Fall Meetings

October 11, 2012 · Filed Under News, Sun Belt Conference · 4 Comments 

The Sun Belt Conference fall meetings concluded today in New Orleans where they discussed the 2013 Sun Belt Conference baseball tournament, fan safety and scheduling for basketball and changes to the ejection policy.

The baseball tournament in 2013 will revert back to the double elimination format that the Sun Belt used from 2000-2010 when it is held in Lafayette, Louisiana from May 22 – May 26. The tournament will still have eight teams and will be split into two brackets with the bracket champions meeting for the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

More changes for baseball is coming in 2014 as the they will split into two divisions and continuing to play a 30 game schedule. More details will be announced at a later date though. The 2014 tournament was previously awarded to the University of South Alabama, however it remains to be seen if it will still be held in Mobile.

More changes will take place for the 2013-2014 academic year. Changes to the automatic suspension rule for student-athletes and coaches is that each ejection will be handled on a case-by-case basis with Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson being able to impose additional penalties. Also, student-athletes and coaches who are ejected are not automatically suspended for the next game unless the ejection is for fighting, which is covered in the NCAA manual.

In basketball, the student seating will not be allowed directly behind opposing team benches. Conference officials and others were concerned about the proximity of the benches to the crowd, particularly that students and student-athletes could be in danger if a student-athlete charged the stands due to verbal abuse by fans.

Additionally they decided that, beginning with the 2013-2014 season, conference games in both men’s and women’s basketball would not begin before christmas holidays. This opens the possibility of having to play three conference games in a one week period.

“There is more excitement today about the Sun Belt Conference than there has ever been,” said Sun Belt Conference President and Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins, Jr. “Our teams are winning and becoming household names. As we continue to win and identify our value as a brand we will show the world who we are and the strength that we have.”

“We are striving to become the best of the non-automatic qualifying BCS conferences,” continued Hawkins. “New leadership present throughout the league, along with our new member institutions and the attitude that every dimension of the Sun Belt Conference is open to examination is going to make us stronger.”

Troy Receiver Added To Biletnikoff Award Watch List

October 3, 2012 · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

Fresh off Troy’s win over the Jaguars, Troy wide receiver Chip Reeves has been added to the Biletnikoff Award watch list by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation. Reeves was one of 11 players to be added to the award watch list, which is awarded to the nation’s top wide receiver.

Reeves leads the Sun Belt and ranks 35th nationally with an average of 85.6 receiving yards per game. Reeves has 29 catches for 428 yards through five games this season and averages 14.8 yards per reception.

Reeves is a fifth-year senior for the Trojans.

Jags Lose Tough Conference Opener To Troy

September 30, 2012 · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · 2 Comments 

Game Captains for South Alabama Romelle Jones, B.J. Scott, Greg Hollinger and Alex Page meet the Troy captains at mid-field for the coin toss in the two teams first meeting and the Jaguars first Sun Belt Conference game.

The South Alabama Jaguars lost their Sun Belt conference opener to Troy 31-10 in a penalty-filled, wet mess. Coming into this game, the Jags knew where they had been and knew where they wanted to be, but after this game they know where they are, at least for the time being.

The Jaguars had four turnovers in the game and could only muster 59 yards passing in the game. Troy’s Corey Robinson threw for 223 yards and ran for a touchdown in the win. But the game had 25 penalties, 15 on the Jaguars for 142 yards.

South Alabama forced five Troy turnovers, a number of them in very key situations where Troy was driving for scores. But the Jaguar offense only managed 51 yards of total offense and two first downs in the second half after they were able to gain 201 yards in the first half.

“Troy played a great game. They were probably a little better than us, and we made a few mistakes. You’re not going to play it close when you do that,” Jaguar head coach Joey Jones explained. “We had some first-half chances and I really thought after halftime that if we came out and scored it would be a different ballgame, but we didn’t do that. We’re a young program. We’re trying to get this thing going and sometimes this is part of it. We kind of know where we are now. Troy is a dominant team in the league, they’ve been there, done that.”

“Their defense made adjustments in the second half, and really shut us down,” Jones said. “I thought we moved the ball pretty good in the first half, but we didn’t in the second half and that was due to them making adjustments and playing well.”

“Offensively, they’re real explosive. They can move the ball at the drop of a hat,” Jones said. “I thought we played pretty good defensively at times, but they are very good offensively.”

Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said after the game, “We made the same basic game-plan calls in the second half that we made in the first. We probably ran them a little bit better. After you play a team for a half, you sort of scout them as you go as coach Dye used to say. You get better playing the things that they are doing. I think that was part of it. I thought we had a good plan against (South Alabama). They did some things a little different in some of the things they had done, but nothing majorly different. We sort of got in tune with them in the second half and played pretty hard and played better. Made some tackles and got a couple of tackles for loss, interceptions and turnovers.”

The game started well with B.J. Scott intercepting Corey Robinson on the Trojan’s first play from scrimmage, but the Jags were unable to convert the early turnover into points as they went three-and-out and forced to punt at the Troy 47 yard line.

After a rush for 11 yards and a first down, the Troy offense would be forced to punt, but T.J. Glover would fumble the punt at his own 29 yard line and it would be recovered by the Trojans.

The first and ten play would go for 24 yards to the Jaguar five yard line, but the Jaguar defense punt the clamps on again and forced Troy to settle for a 21 yard field goal.

Again the Jags would go three and out and the Scott Garber punt would be downed at the Troy 43 yard line. Corey Robinson would complete back-to-back passes for 16 and 38 yards to set up at the Jaguar one yard line. They would punch it in on the next play to take a 10-0 lead on the Jags with 8:05 left in the first quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, T.J. Glover would return the kickoff from the one yard line 21 yards but a holding penalty would put the Jags at their own 12 yard line. Demetre Baker would rush for 7 and 9 yards and a Jaguar first down. But Ross Metheny would run on the quarterback keeper and fumble the ball away to Troy at the Jaguar 30 yard line.

Troy would get flagged for a hold on their first down play and get backed up to the 38 yard line with a first and 18. A screen pass to Shawn Southward would be go for a loss of five as Jake Johnson and Romelle Jones combined for the stop. On second and 23, Southward would take the handoff 31 yards before Darrius Morrow would force a fumble that Terrel Brigham would recover at the Jaguar 6 yard line.

The Jags would finally get a good drive put together starting at the Jaguar 6 yard line. Baker would rush for 2 yards then lose a yard on the second run. Then C.J. Bennett, who rotated in for Ross Metheny, would scramble for 10 yards and a first down at the 17 yard line. Baker would rush again for 3 more yards then the Jags would take a time out with 3:29 left in the first quarter.

On 2nd and 7, Glover would come in as a running back and rush for nine yards and a first down. Bennett’s pass attempt to Wes Saxton would fall incomplete, then Glover would rush for 6 more yards to set up a 3rd and 4 at the Jaguar 35 yard line. Demetre Baker would come in for Glover and run for 10 yards and another Jaguar first down. After an incomplete pass to Cameron Broadnax, Bennett would opt to keep the ball and find a seam for a 50 yard run down to the Troy five yard line. Another run around the right side for Bennett would net two yards.

Trey Fetner would come into the game and run left for the three yard touchdown to get the Jags on the board 10-7 with 46 seconds left in the first quarter.

Troy would answer the Jags touchdown with one of their own. An 8 play, 70 yard drive spanning 4 minutes on the clock would put the Trojans up 17-7 with 11:46 left in the second quarter.

On the kickoff, Glover would get a 22 yard return out to the Jaguar 24 yard line, but a personal fould on Terrel Brigham would place the ball at their own 12 yard line. The Jags would go three and out and after a four yard return, would be set up near midfield at the Troy 48 yard line.

After a holding penalty on Troy, they faced a 2nd and 13 at the Jaguar 39 and Gabe Loper would intercept the Robinson pass at the 28 yard line and return it 19 yards out to the Jaguar 47 yare line. with 8:17 left in the half.

Baker would open the series with a 15 yard rush down to the Troy 48 yard line. Bennett would then run the ball for another 9 yards. On back to back rushes by Baker, he would rush for 4 and 1 yards, but on the second rush Troy’s Zach Miller would be flagged for a personal foul to place the ball at the Troy 12 yard line with a first down. After a Kendall Houston rush for three yards, Bennett would throw an incomplete pass intended for Lavender. Then on third and 7 at the Troy 9 yard line, Bennett’s pass intended for Jereme Jones in the end zone would be picked off and returned 10 yards.

The Jags defense would force a three and out and get the ball at their own 49 yard line with 4:18 left in the game. Metheny would return to the game and hand off to Demetre Baker on the first two plays for 6 and 3 yards. Then the Metheny pass intended for Greg Hollinger would fall incompleted forcing Garber to punt again.

Starting on their own 20 yard line, Robinson’s pass to Chip Reeves would go for 19 yards then the Jaguar sidelines would be penalized 5 yards for a delay of game as well as Tyrell Pearson being flagged for a personal foul for another 15 yards, putting the ball at the Jaguar 41 yard line. After an incomplete pass, Robinson would find Reeves again for another 39 yards to the Jaguar 2 yard line. Robinson would run the ball in on the next play to put the Trojans up 24-7 with 2:13 left in the half.

The Jags would put together another good drive on the ensuing possession. A short kickoff would be fielded by Randon Carnathan and returned 12 yards to the 35 yard line. Baker would rush for one yard on the first down play. Then Metheny would find Corey Besteda for a 19 yard gain to the Troy 45 yard line. Then Metheny would run for five yard and get out of bounds to stop the clock. Baker would run for another three yards followed by Metheny gaining a yard then the Jags would call a time out with 38 seconds left in the half to set up their 4th and 1 play.

After coming out with Fetner at quarterback and Metheny at receiver, Troy would burn a timeout to adjust. Then the Jags would come out with Metheny back at quarterback to which Larry Blakeney would be forced to burn another time out to adjust to. Then, with Troy out of time outs Fetner would return to the game and run for the needed yard and a first down at the Troy 35.

Metheny would throw a pass to Baker in the flat, but he would cut it back inside for no gain and forced the coaching staff to call a time out to stop the clock with 20 seconds left. Metheny would hit Jereme Jones for 11 yards and a first down at the Troy 24 yard line. The field goal unit would run on the first and the 41 yard attempt would be blocked but recovered by Demetre Baker at the Troy 31 yard line with 4 seconds left in the half. The Jags would be penalized for delay of game. With one second left in the half, the Jags would get one last shot and Chapuseaux would connect on the 53 yard field goal for a halftime score of 24-10 in favor of Troy.

The Jags would go three and out on their first series of the second half. Troy would drive down to the Jaguar 7 yard line befroe facing a 3rd and 6 at the 7 yard line, Alex Page would sack Robinson for a 13 yard loss and forcing Troy to attempt a field goal. The attempt would be blocked and recovered by Gabe Loper.

The next Jaguar possession, they would go three and out. Garber’s punt would be fair caught at the 26, but an illegal block would back them up to the 16 yard line. Troy would drive down to the Jaguar 7 yard line facing first and goal, Justin Albert would get caught for a loss then Jesse Kelley would force a fumble that would be recovered by Enrique Williams at the Jaguar 16 yard line and avoiding a Trojan score.

Yet again, the Jaguar offense would go three and out and forced to punt. Back to back competions for Troy would go for 17 and 19 yards down to the Jaguar 27 yard line to end the third quarter. Two plays later, Robinson would be picked off in the end zone by Charles Watson for a touchback.

Baker would rush for a yard, Bennett’s first pass would fall incomplete intended for Hollinger, then on third and 9, Bennett would hit Jereme Jones for 19 yards to the Jaguar 40 yard line. Bennett would keep the ball for an 8 yard gain then Baker is caught for a two yard loss to set up third down and 4. Tremain Smith would be flagged for a false start then the 3rd and 9 pass would fall incomplete forcing the Jags to punt again.

On the punt, Troy would be flagged for holding to put the ball back at the Troy 14 yard line. Deon Anthony’s pass would be thrown up in the sky and completed to Chris Williams for a 44 yard gain. Again the Jaguar bench would be flagged for a 5 yard delay of game penalty as well. Troy would get a touchdown a few plays later for the final score of the game to make it 31-10.

The Jags would get the ball two more times. Metheny would be intercepted on his first pass attempt on a deep throw at the Troy 17. On their second, The Jags managed one first down before being forced to punt with 34 seconds left in the game.

“It’s our first Sun Belt Conference game, and I have to keep things in perspective as do our kids,” Coach Jones observed. “We’re all competitors and want to win. For us to play and beat a team like Troy in our first conference game would be a miracle. But as a coach, I look at it and think there were things we could have done to have been in the ballgame. We’re going to get there, we’re not quite there yet, but we’re going to get there. We’re just going through a growing time right now.”

Sometimes those growing pains hurt the worst when you had a chance in the game. But some penalties were so bizarre, that it was unbelievable.

For instance in the waning moments of the first half the Jags elect to kick a field goal with 14 seconds remaining on first down. The Chapuseaux kick was blocked and recovered by the Jags so the Troy field goal unit went to the sidelines to celebrate what they thought was a block and turnover. The South Alabama coaches found the nearest officials and told them that the ball should still be possessed by the Jags since an attempt was made and the ball was blocked and therefore never went past the line of scrimmage.

Meanwhile, the Jaguar kicking unit stayed on the field and the Troy coaches, special teams unit and offense were all grouped together near the sidelines conferring with the officials. Once the referee made the call, the Jaguar special teams unit was standing at the line of scrimmage waiting to snap the ball as the official stood over the ball. Once the whistle was blown, the Jags snapped the ball but it was immediately whistled dead. The penalty? Delay of game on the offense.

After marking off a five yard penalty, Michel Chapuseaux drilled a 53 yard field goal, the longest in his career and set a new Jaguar record for longest field goal.

That was such as the game went. Numerous obvious fouls occurred in front of officials that were perputrated by Troy that were never called. Junior defensive back Zach Miller, after a long incompletion by the Jags, was walking back to the line of scrimmage and as Corey Besteda jogged past him, shoved him in the back. It wasn’t a “genty nudge” or anything like that. It was a full on shove that was meant to try to make him lose balance. But it was not called, nor did the referee in the area caution him about the incident.

I think that sequence to end the first half really let the air out of the team in many ways. But they did not give up. They fought very hard in the second half and turned away a couple of scores, the offense could not get going with the hole they faced.

Jaguar Individual Statistical Leaders In The Sun Belt Conference

September 26, 2012 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

Below is some of South Alabama’s statistical leaders with a comparison to Troy, the Jaguars next opponent and the first team they will face in the Sun Belt Conference.

Jags do not have any rushers in the top 10, but Troy’s Shawn Southward leads the Sun Belt with 430 yards rushing on 78 carries.

Also Troy’s quarterback Corey Robinson leads the conference in passing average per game with an average of 321.5 yards per game on 119-of-178 with four interceptions and six touchdowns for a total of 1,286 yards.

The Jags C.J. Bennett ranks 10th on the list with an average of 130.2 yards per game. He is 50-of-85 with three interceptions, three interceptions and 521 yards on the season.

The Jags do not have a quarterback in the top ten of passing efficiency, however Troy’s Corey Robinson ranks fifth with an efficiency rating of 134.2.

Additionally Troy has three receivers ranked in the top ten for receptions per game with Chip Reeves is tied for fifth averaging 6.5 per game, Eric Thomas is tied for sixth averaging 6 receptions per game and Southward averages 5 receptions per game. The Jags do not have a receiver in the top ten currently.

Again the Jags do not have a receiver in the top ten for receiving yards per game while Troy’s Chip Reeves ranks second on the list with an average of 90.2 yards per game.

In the total offense rankings, Troy’s Corey Robinson ranks second with 316 yards per game while South Alabama’s C.J. Bennett comes in tenth with an average of 144 yards per game.

South Alabama’s T.J. Glover ranks fourth in the conference in Punt Return average with 11.2 yards per return and ranks third in kick return average with 30 yards per return. In both instances he ranks ahead of Troy players. Troy’s Justin Albert ranked ninth with a 2.7 yard average while the Trojan’s Worthy ranks sixth with an average of 23.4 yards per return.

In all purpose yards, the Jags once again does not have a player in the top ten, yet Troy has three in the top ten. Southward averages 141.2 all-purpose yards per game, Worthy has an average of 102.2 yards per game and Chip Reeves has an average of 90.2 yards per game.

The Jaguars Scott Garber ranks seventh in punting with an average of 41.1 yards per punt while Troy’s Will Scott is ninth with an even 40 yards per punt average. The leader Josh Davis from MTSU averages 43.1 yards per punt.

Michel Chapuseaux is fourth in the conference in kicking percentage by making 71.4 percent (5-of-7) of his field goal attempts. MTSU’s Carlos Lopez leads the conference making a perfect 5-of-5 while Troy’s Will Scott ranks fifth by hitting 60 percent of his attempts (3-of-5).

Defensively, Jake Johnson is second in the Sun Belt in tackles with 40, one behind FIU’s John Cyprien who has 41. Enrique Williams is tied for tenth and B.J. Scott tied for 40th with 20 tackles so far this season. Troy has four players in the top 40 in tackles, the highest is Trawick with 35 this season.

The Jaguars Alex Page is tied for first in the conference with three sacks with Western Kentucky’s Smith who has three sacks through three games, one less than Page. Anthony Taylor was tied for third with two sacks prior to his season ending injury at Mississippi State.

Jake Johnson is in second place in tackles-for-loss with 5.5 so far this season. He trails Tim Starson from Arkansas State who has 6. Alex Page is tied for 8th with 3.5 TFL’s this season. Again Anthony Taylor was tied for 12th with 3 before his injury. Enrique Williams and Montavious Williams are in 18th and 19th positions for the Jags.

A pair of Jaguars are in the top 13 for passes defended as well. Tyrell Pearson is in fourth place with five passes defended, three broken up and two intercepted. Terrell Brigham is in an eight way time for 13th place with three. He has two break-ups and an interception.

With his two interceptions, Pearson is also tied for 2nd place with his two interceptions.

CBSSports Conference Power Rankings This Week

September 19, 2012 · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

Chip Patterson, a blogger for CBSSports.com, posted his Conference Power Rankings for September 18. While the top conference will not surprise you, you may be surprised at who is ranked at the “top of the rest” as many would say.

First, he ranked the “Cupcake King Power Rankings” as he called it. These are teams who played the most FCS games so far this season.

  • 1. ACC (12 games)
  • 2. Big 12 (9 games) & Mountain West (9 games)
  • 4. MAC (8 games) & PAC 12 (8 games)

His Conference Power Rankings for the 11 conferences. Note the top 6 conferences are typically called “The Big 6”:

  1. SEC
  2. Big 12
  3. Pac 12
  4. Big 10
  5. Big East
  6. ACC
  7. Sun Belt
  8. MAC
  9. WAC
  10. Mountain West
  11. C-USA

Not long ago there was an article about how the Sun Belt had set it’s sights on C-USA, but right now C-USA is in the cellar according to Chip.

If you want to read Chip’s original article, which outlines some of his criteria for his rankings as well as statistics that went into his rankings, click here.

Sun Belt Looking For New Conference Headquarters

September 18, 2012 · Filed Under Sun Belt Conference · 2 Comments 

The Sun Belt Conference may not be calling New Orleans home much longer according to SportsNOLA.com. The conference office has called New Orleans for the home for their offices for the past two decades.

Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said that the conference is considering their current home New Orleans along with Atlanta, Orlando, Nashville, Memphis and Birmingham as possible sites for the league’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments as well as a potential home for the conference office.

The University of New Orleans is no longer a member of the Sun Belt Conference, but New Orleans still has ties to the league in the R&L Carrier New Orleans Bowl that invites the Sun Belt Champion each season.

Among the other cities that are under consideration, only two of them have Sun Belt schools located within or very nearby. Atlanta has Georgia State who will be joining the conference in 2013 and Nashville with long-time member Middle Tennessee State nearby.

The basketball tournaments are contracted to play in Hot Springs, Arkansas through the 2013-2014 season, but the city also has a 30-day window after the 2013 tournament to exclusively negotiate another contract with the Sun Belt.

Benson toured the Gwinnett Arena with members of Georgia State’s athletic department and the Atlanta Sports Council. Benson said he liked the facilities.

“The priority is finding the right location for our basketball tournament,” Benson said. The Conferences wishes to find a location that will be good for fans to travel to and that will provide a good experience for the fans that will result in better attendance. With the conference spread from Texas to Florida, he said somewhere central would be ideal.

Last seasons’ championship game between Western Kentucky and North Texas was attended by 4,216. The men’s tournament had a total attendance of 16,109 while the women had a total attendance of 13,253.

Benson said that Atlanta is “very, very preliminary.”

Sun Belt Looks To Catch C-USA, Mountain West Conferences

August 30, 2012 · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

Ralph Russo, an AP College Football writer, published a piece on Yahoo! Sports this week about the Sun Belt Conference aiming to catch Conference-USA and the Mountain West as being the “best of the rest” conference.

The Sun Belt is now 10 years old and up until now they have been considered among the lower end of the “have-not” conferences. But they continue to take small steps forward amongst its peer conferences. Last year the Sun Belt tallied a 7-6 record against their peer conferences.

They finished the season with a 5-2 record against Conference-USA. C-USA is their direct competition in the region for players, attention and even schools most recently as they will be adding Florida International and North Texas from the Sun Belt next season.

“The goal of the Sun Belt right now is to be the best of the quote, ‘below the line conferences,'” Benson is quoted in the article. “There’s going to be five (conferences) above the line and five below the line. The Sun Belt’s goal is going to be to compete with those other conferences.”

Troy University President Jack Hawkins was quoted from an email sent to the AP in the article as well. “In my estimation the competitive position of the Sun Belt exceeds its ‘brand,'” he said. “This will change very soon. When its brand matches reality, the Sun Belt will equal or exceed several non-AQ (automatic qualifier) conferences it sought to emulate just a few years ago.”

Recently the WAC announced this will be it’s last season as a football conference. This was after Carl Benson took over the Sun Belt Commissioner spot after Wright Waters announced his retirement earlier this year. He led the WAC through 17 years of almost constant change.

The dominoes of conference realignment fell this past offseason when the Mountain West Conference rebuilt itself after losing schools to the ACC to fill spots left when schools left the ACC for the Big East and the Big 12. The Mountain West added schools from the WAC. C-USA lost schools to the ACC as well and raided the Sun Belt for Florida International and North Texas to fill empty spots.

Additionally, C-USA will be adding Texas-San Antonio who some thought the Sun Belt was interested in adding.

After losing two schools, the Sun Belt was quick to add two football schools, both from lower divisions to fill their empty slots. Georgia State, who began football in 2010, and Texas State who will play in the WAC as a transitional team in 2012. Benson also added Texas-Arlington as a second non-football school to replace Denver University and compliment Arkansas-Little Rock who also does not sponsor football.

The Sun Belt, like their peer conferences, typically schedule a number of “upper tier” schools for what most people call “money games.” These games are scheduled without a guarantee of a return game and often pay upwards of $1 millions these days.

Benson would like to see this change in favor of playing more games against peer conferences. “We’ve talked about scheduling philosophy, scheduling strategy. Ideally we’d like to establish across the board some scheduling parameters that would limit those guarantee games to one a year,” Benson was quoted as saying.

Western Kentucky is adopting that philosophy. According to the schools president, they are limiting themselves to one single-game contract per year. This season they have a single-game contract with the University of Alabama, they play FCS Austin Peay as their version of a guarantee game, then a sort of rivalry with Kentucky and a home game against Southern Miss.

South Alabama somewhat adopted that philosophy too it seems. But they have been scheduling two-for-one’s with some members of the “upper tier” conferences. The Jags are currently in the midst of series with N.C. State where they travel to Raleigh twice (2011, 2012) for a sincle return game in Mobile (2015) and Kent State (2011, 2012 and in Mobile 2013). They also have similar contracts with Tulane, Oklahoma State and Mississippi State for future schedules.

But the Jags also have money games on the horizon as well. They have single game contracts with Tennessee, Georgia, Nebraska (x2), LSU and Ole Miss. But these, similarly to WKU, are limited to one per season.

As Benson points out to Russo, “What my goal would be is for the Sun Belt to enhance our assets, our characteristics, so if and when the time comes that Conference USA comes looking to the Sun Belt for a replacement team because Conference USA lost school A, B or C, that the Sun Belt member will look at what the Sun Belt provides and come to the conclusion that there’s no reason for us to leave the Sun Belt.”

What the conference needs to do is to expand to 12 football schools. Why do they need to do this? They need a conference championship game.

The extra game for the conference would bring in lots of revenue for the conference. But the television exposure could be worth just as much. This game would be one of only seven or eight games that weekend. But who do you add?

You can read his article at Yahoo! Sports here.

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