As of this posting, nothing is stamped in steel. Southern Miss and Old Dominion have signed the line that is dotted, but the anxious nation continues to wait on Sun Belt announcements from Marshall and James Madison University (both said to be declaring “soon”).
The Great Realignment War is a clear win for the Sun Belt, for Keith Gill, and the Sun Belt East, who acquires new in-conference rivalries to motivate their fan bases. The Sun Belt West (it is rumored) will see Troy finally shift East, renewing natural aggravations with ULM, Louisiana, and Arkansas State.
Aside from the re-attachment to Troy, the impact for Arkansas State is pretty soft. For example, the history Arkansas State shares with Sun Belt newbies is scant
Appalachian State receives immediate dividends on a conference rivalry with Marshall – two programs that produce genuine mutual dislike. Old Dominion and Jimmy Madison serve as added seasoning. The West gets the Golden Eagles, who have real beef with Troy and South Bama but are more or less frienemies with everyone else.
Uh, What About UA Little Rock and UT Arlington?
The rumor mill has churned out Sun Belt death certificates for UT Arlington and UA Little Rock – both basketball/volleyball/baseball-only programs who do add some value in those regards. However, football is king, and that leaves the Trojans (LR) and Mavericks racing to update their LinkedIn profiles.
As a citizen of Arkansas State, I take zero joy in the prospect of seeing UA Little Rock go. I like the rivalry. It isn’t very heated and it usually results in some decent basketball and baseball. If the Sun Belt and these two programs do decided to party ways, I suspect neither will have too much trouble finding a new home, as both are well-vested in their sports. Would it be too wild to see UALR wind up in the Atlantic 10?
The Red Wolves are in a Good Place
The Red Wolves will possibly lose a conference rival in UA Little Rock, but will gain a division rival in Troy, which is good and just. Furthermore, the addition of Southern Miss to the division provides all kinds of regional rivalry.
But on a larger note, the Sun Belt has become an elite Group of Five conference by sticking together and strategically acquiring members with brand potential. This only makes the Red Wolves stronger.
Photo Credit: SBC