Benson “Tempering” Talk of 12 Football Schools in Sun Belt – From the Bird’s Nest
Early Wednesday afternoon in a conference call with the media, Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson was, naturally, asked about further expansion.
And, because of the way the questions were asked, there were many who came away with the opinion more expansion was on the way.
Benson didn't seem to rule out any possibilities.
But, in an exclusive interview later in the day on Bird's Eye View, Benson gave me the impression the Sun Belt might be just about finished adding teams.
Today, Texas State was announced as the newest member of the Sun Belt Conference, joining Georgia State as the latest to become part of the league, effective July 1, 2013.
Benson, in the early presser, sidestepped questions about Texas-Arlington, a school widely speculated to be ready to join the Sun Belt in olympic sports. UTA does not play football.
In the later interview, Benson made it pretty obvious UTA would be a great addition to the league. The addition of UTA would bring the Sun Belt to twelve schools, ten of which play football. And, Benson spoke of how much better it is to schedule when you have twelve schools. He specifically spoke of a compact Western Division including Texas State, UTA, Arkansas State, Arkansas-Little Rock, Louisiana and Louisiana-Monroe.
He did NOT sound like a Commissioner who couldn't wait to add more schools.
Benson, when reminded of his original presser when he said he'd like to see the league with twelve football schools and a conference championship game, today said he's "tempering" those remarks, given the landscape of college athletics and where schools are being slotted.
I took that to mean there's no one else Benson really feels adds anything to the league, at least for right now.
Benson mentioned other schools that would like to make the move to the FBS. He specifically mentioned Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Liberty and Jacksonville State to the east and Lamar and Sam Houston State to the west.
He also said, if the CEO's want to get to twelve football schools, New Mexico State and Idaho, both about to be FBS orphans, could be considered as "football-only" members, even though they are outside of the Sun Belt geographical footprint, which runs from Texas to the east coast, and as far north as Kentucky.
But, we all need to remember Benson is the commissioner of the league. He works at the behest of the CEO's, who have the flnal call when it comes to membership.
So, while just about anything is possible, the reality is, unless the CEO's decide to expand further, the Sun Belt is probably one announcement away from getting out of the expansion business, at least for the time being.
I would expect Texas-Arlington to be announced within the next two weeks. As part of the University of Texas system, they have a board to deal with, just as the University of Louisiana system schools do.
And then I expect the "no vacancy" sign to be put out.
And, personally, I think it's a good move.
Right now the Sun Belt Conference really doesn't need to have four, count 'em, four FBS startups all coming into the league at the same time. Benson admitted he has never visited Statesboro, GA or Boone, NC. Nor did he really want to talk about them, choosing to concentrate on the known membership.
And, unless presidents are hell bent on a championship game, there's no need to extend the geographical footprint.
There's also no reason to go to fourteen members, the non-football schools included.
Karl Benson is a veteran commissioner of three different FBS leagues. He knows how this stuff works.
And, my guess is, his recommendation will be to add UTA and be done with it.
Then Benson can get to work on a new television contract.....and hopefully, some extra bowl bids.