Idaho, New Mexico State to leave the Sun Belt

Thomas Gleaton

Chief Copy Editor

Idaho and New Mexico State will leave the Sun Belt conference.

In a teleconference held on Tuesday, March 1, presidents and chancellors of Sun Belt teams chose not to extend the contracts of both schools. The Vandals and the Aggies are currently football-only members, and their contracts expire after the 2017 season.

“This was a strategic decision that was reached following a thorough and complete review of our options,” Denise Trauth, Texas State University President, said in a press release. “The Sun Belt’s presidents and chancellors strongly believe it is in the best interest of the conference to have a core membership of 10 football teams that are geographically located within the ‘footprint’ of the conference and that these 10 members also compete in all conference sports.”

According to Trauth, the decision will “reduce travel demands” and support “the development of regional rivalries within the conference.”

The distance between Troy University and Idaho’s football stadium, the Kibbie Dome, as calculated by distancecalculator.globefeed.com, is 1,936 miles through the air and 2,440 miles on the road.

Comparatively, Coastal Carolina University is 426 miles from Troy, and 538 on the road.

CCU will be joining the conference in football in 2017, giving the Sun Belt an even 12 teams for a single year. In 2018, the number will drop to 10.

“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,” Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said. “We will also now have serious conversations with our football coaches and athletics directors about conducting a football championship game.”

In January, the NCAA Division I council adopted a rule allowing conferences with fewer than 12 teams to hold a championship game.

Benson said planning for the game will happen in the spring, and a final decision will come “in the very near future.”

Idaho and New Mexico State currently play all other sports in the Western Athletic Conference. The WAC dropped football in 2012 after continuous play for 51 years.

“We’re disappointed with this outcome, but we respect the decision of the Sun Belt Conference,” NMSU President Garrey Carruthers said. “We appreciate being able to play football in the Sun Belt Conference for the past two years and look forward to continuing in the league for the next two years.”

Following the decision, both schools are looking into their options.

“The University of Idaho will continue to assess how to provide the best experience for our student-athletes and fans,” Idaho President Chuck Staben said. “Football is an important part of the college experience.”

Staben said Idaho is going to “make a decision in the coming months.”

The Vandals president was asked to present his school’s case for remaining a Sun Belt member on Thursday, Feb. 18. The football team went 4-8 last season after multiple one- and two-win seasons.

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