<
>

Sun Belt becomes final FBS conference to add title game

The Sun Belt will become the final FBS conference to add a football title game.

The Sun Belt won't add its championship game until 2018, with commissioner Karl Benson saying Wednesday that the 2018 title game will likely be hosted by one of the finalists.

"We have great fan bases. We have some great facilities within the Sun Belt that we think could and would showcase Sun Belt football," Benson said. "So I think, in the early stages, the route that we will take will be on one of our campuses."

For the next two seasons, the Sun Belt will have 11 members, but the league voted recently not to renew the football memberships of Idaho and New Mexico State when they expire after the 2017 season.

Coastal Carolina, which is joining the Sun Belt in 2018, will bring the football membership to 10 teams.

Benson said there are no plans to further expand the league, saying 10 "is the right number [of football teams] for the Sun Belt."

"It now allows us to shrink our boundaries and maximize the geography," Benson said.

With 10 teams in the fold for 2018, the Sun Belt has to decide how to organize them. Benson said possibilities include the use of two five-team divisions or a round-robin format that would require a nine-game conference slate for each team.

Benson said that if the league splits into divisions, teams likely would play eight conference games and schedule four nonconference opponents each season. If, however, the league does not create divisions, the new NCAA rules would require every conference team to meet in order to decide the top two.

Even if the Sun Belt splits into divisions, Benson added, the league could still opt to mandate that its teams play nine league games.

Last week, the Big 12 announced it would add a conference title game in 2017. The Big 12 and Sun Belt will be the only FBS conferences that will not have a football championship game in 2016.

"The fall of 2018 really is the new era, so to speak, for Sun Belt football," Benson said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.