The SunBelt will drop to 10 teams beginning in 2018 the conference announced Tuesday.
The SunBelt contracts for football only members Idaho Vandals and New Mexico State Aggies will not be renewed and the two schools will be looking for new conference homes for the 2018 season.
The SunBelt will remain with 10 teams with the addition of Coastal Carolina joining Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, UL Lafayette, UL Monroe, South Alabama, Texas State and Troy as the 10th member of the league in 2018.
“This 10-team football league will maximize the Sun Belt’s on-field performance, push us to the top ranking of our four peer conferences, and will give us the best opportunity to soon place a team in one of the College Football Playoff’s New Year’s Day bowl games,” said Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson in a press release from the league.
“We will also now have serious conversations with our football coaches and athletics directors about conducting a football championship game. These discussions will take place this spring and a decision will be made in the very near future,” he added.
The league also believes this will help improve their chances to move up in the rankings and reach a New Year’s Day bowl and perhaps even the College Football Playoff in the future.
There were 8 factors that led the SunBelt’s Executive Board to come to the conclusion to not renew the two schools which included economics, geography, travel and the NCAA’s recent decision to de-regulate conference championships which originally required leagues to have 12 members.
Both universities were given an opportunity to state their case to remain in the conference, but the consensus of the board was it was best to move forward without the two institutions.
The league was asked as to whether competition was one of the 8 factors not to renew the two teams and was not directly answered. However, since the two schools joined in 2013 they are a combined 13-58 overall and 9-25 in the SunBelt.
The Vandals are expected to decide soon where they will call home. “We are disappointed by the Sun Belt’s decision, but we are optimistic about the options before us, and we are continuing to diligently consider our future affiliation as an opportunity to find the stability and full participation we have not experienced in the Sun Belt. We will make a decision in the coming months,” said Idaho president Chuck Staben in a statement to Bruce Feldman of FoxSports. The options the Vandals exploring becoming independent and possibly joining the Big Sky Conference.
The Aggies, however, are already members of the Western Athletic Conference in all other sports besides football but will keep all options for conference affiliation open for its football program.
The SunBelt also announced that the 2016 football schedule should be released within the next 48 hours once talks with ESPN regarding the schedule have been completed.