Sun Belt Conference

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The Sun Belt Conference is a group of college sports teams that play each other on the NCAA Division I level. The conference was formed in 1976, and started playing football in 2001. Of the current 12 full members (those playing most of their sports in the league), 10 play football in the top-level Division I FBS. The other two do not play football. The conference's full members are scattered through the southern United States.

Members[change | change source]

The current non-football members are Little Rock and UT Arlington.

School Location Founded Type
(affiliation)
Nickname Joined
Sun Belt
Appalachian State University Boone, North Carolina 1899 Public Mountaineers 2014
Arkansas State University Jonesboro, Arkansas 1909 Public Red Wolves 1991
Coastal Carolina University Conway, South Carolina 1954 Public Chanticleers 2016
(2017 in football)
Georgia Southern University Statesboro, Georgia 1906 Public Eagles 2014
Georgia State University Atlanta, Georgia 1913 Public Panthers 1976, 2013[a]
University of Arkansas at Little Rock (Little Rock) Little Rock, Arkansas 1927 Public Trojans 1991
LouisianaUniversity of Louisiana at Lafayette (Louisiana) Lafayette, Louisiana 1898 Public Ragin' Cajuns 1991
Louisiana MonroeUniversity of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe, Louisiana 1931 Public Warhawks 2001 (football only)
2006 (all sports)
South AlabamaUniversity of South Alabama Mobile, Alabama 1963 Public Jaguars 1976
Texas State University San Marcos, Texas 1899 Public Bobcats 2013
Troy University Troy, Alabama 1887 Public Trojans 2004 (football only)
2005 (all sports)
UT ArlingtonUniversity of Texas at Arlington (UT Arlington) Arlington, Texas 1895 Public Mavericks 2013
  1. Georgia State left the Sun Belt in 1981 and returned in 2013.

Future members[change | change source]

The Sun Belt announced four new members in a two-week span in October and November 2021, all of which sponsor football. Old Dominion, which had been a Sun Belt member from 1982 to 1991, will rejoin, and three more schools will join for the first time. All are scheduled to join no later than July 2023.

School Location Founded Type
(affiliation)
Nickname Joining
Sun Belt
James Madison University Harrisonburg, Virginia 1908 Public Dukes 2023
Marshall University Huntington, West Virginia 1837 Public Thundering Herd 2023
Old Dominion University Norfolk, Virginia 1930 Public Monarchs 2023
University of Southern Mississippi
(Southern Miss)
Hattiesburg, Mississippi 1910 Public Golden Eagles 2023

Associate members[change | change source]

In the past, the Sun Belt has had "associate members" that play only a few sports, usually one, in the league, but has had none since it shut down its men's soccer league after the 2020–21 school year.

The first school to abandon single-sport membership was Utah State, which played Sun Belt football in 2003 and 2004 before joining the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) in 2005. The Aggies have been members of the Mountain West Conference since 2013.

Idaho and New Mexico State had two different periods of involvement in the league. New Mexico State first joined the Sun Belt as a full member in 2000, and brought its football team into the Sun Belt the next year. Also in 2001, Idaho joined only for football. Both left in 2005 to join the WAC. During the early 2010s, NCAA Division I went through a major phase of conference changes, with most leagues gaining or losing multiple members. The WAC was one of the most affected conferences, going through a nearly complete membership turnover that left Idaho and New Mexico State as the league's only football schools. In 2014, both placed their football programs in the Sun Belt. The conference announced in 2016 that its agreements for Idaho and New Mexico State to play football in the league would not be renewed when they ended after the 2017 season.[1]

NJIT (the New Jersey Institute of Technology) was another victim of this realignment; it was forced to become an independent (not in a conference) when its former league, the Great West Conference, collapsed. Its men's soccer team joined the Sun Belt in 2014, a year before the school found a home in the ASUN Conference. Although the ASUN sponsors men's soccer, NJIT kept that team in the Sun Belt until 2016, honoring its two-year contract to play in that league.

Another recent change involved Hartwick, which had long competed in Division I men's soccer despite otherwise being in NCAA Division III. In 2018, Hartwick aligned completely with Division III, moving its men's soccer team to its full-time home of the Empire 8.

The most recent changes came in 2021, when the Sun Belt shut down its men's soccer league after it dropped below the number of members needed to keep the automatic berth its champion received in the NCAA tournament.

School Location Founded Type
(affiliation)
Nickname Joined Left Sun Belt sport Current conference in
former Sun Belt sport[a]
University of Central Arkansas Conway, Arkansas 1907 Public Bears[b] 2019 2021 Men's soccer ASUN
Hartwick College Oneonta, New York 1797 Private Hawks 2014 2018 Men's soccer Empire 8
(Division III)
Howard University Washington, D.C. 1867 Private Bison 2014 2018 Men's soccer Northeast
IdahoUniversity of Idaho Moscow, Idaho 1889 Public Vandals 2001
2014
2005
2018
Football Big Sky
New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico 1888 Public Aggies 2014[c] 2018 Football FBS independent
(Conference USA in 2023)
New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Newark, New Jersey 1881 Public Highlanders 2014 2016 Men's soccer America East[d]
Utah State University Logan, Utah 1888 Public Aggies 2003 2005 Football Mountain West
  1. In all cases except Howard and New Mexico State, this matches the school's main affiliation. Howard is a full member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, including FCS football. New Mexico State is a full member of the Western Athletic Conference, which added FCS football in fall 2021; however, NMSU continues to play as an FBS independent.
  2. Central Arkansas uses "Sugar Bears" as the nickname for its women's sports teams, but no UCA women's team was ever a Sun Belt member.
  3. New Mexico State joined the Sun Belt as a full member in 2000, and brought its football team into the league the next year. NMSU left the conference in 2005.
  4. NJIT initially left for its then-current all-sports home of the ASUN Conference. It joined the America East Conference in 2020.

References[change | change source]

  • "Sun Belt Conference". sunbeltsports.org. Retrieved 2008-06-29.
  1. Sun Belt Conference (March 1, 2016). "Sun Belt Football to Be 10 Teams in 2018". Press release. http://sunbeltsports.org/news/2016/3/1/FB_0301161055.aspx. Retrieved March 1, 2016.