The Sun Belt’s role of elevating FCS programs needs to come to an honorable end.
At Sun Belt Media Days, SBC Commissioner Keith Gill seemed pretty damn happy with the state of the Belt. Fourteen teams felt just right. However, when pressed by the press, Gill seemed to open a portal to another strange dimension, insisting that 16 teams wasn’t off the table – or even 15 teams.
That prompted a conversation between one of my FunBelt battery mates, Dusty Thibodeaux. Were the Sun Belt to expand by one or two, who would Gill invite?
Dusty offered WKU and UAB. I suggested Memphis. Rice bubbled to the surface. Both of us agreed that our differences could be put aside for Louisiana Tech. Then Thibs posed this question:
“What about Jackson State?”
What about Jackson State? Thibs pointed out the program’s success as a historic HBC, and he mentioned head coach Prime Sanders and his otherworldly recruiting as proof of its upward trajectory. Both were solid points. My response was a very cold “no.”
The Sun Belt’s honorary position of FCS Elevator Operator has run its course to glorious fruition. We did our part. Our watch is over. Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Texas State, Georgia State, South Alabama and the latest FCS program, James Madison, owe Gill and former commish Karl Benson a bottle of good booze. Some of these programs were instant contributors. Some required years of work. All are esteemed members of the Sun Belt family.
But we good now. It’s time that another conference took the baton. Conference USA may already have it in hand, forced to bring in Sam Houston and Jacksonville State to fill in gaps created by raids from the American and Sun Belt. Let CUSA accept the investment of time and care into these programs. The shine on the Sun Belt brand has never been brighter. If we’re to expand, let’s bring in programs that elevate us rather than the other way around.
Is this a snotty take? Absolutely.
PHOTO CREDIT: SUN BELT