The dawn of a new era in the Sun Belt Conference began as Coastal Carolina University officially joined the league after announcing its acceptance of an invitation on Sept. 1, 2015.
The Chanticleers join the Sun Belt Conference as full members and will begin play in all sports, with the exception of football, in the upcoming 2016-17 academic year. The CCU football program will begin its two-year transition from the FCS to FBS this fall Next season, CCU will play a full Sun Belt football schedule and will be eligible to win a conference championship, but ineligible for postseason play. The Chanticleers will complete the transition and attain full football membership status, with eligibility to play in a bowl game, for the 2018 season.
“This is a great day for the Sun Belt Conference as we are very proud to have Coastal Carolina University officially join our membership,” said Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson. “The Sun Belt has a bright future and Coastal Carolina makes a perfect fit as it too has seen a tremendous amount of growth and success with its baseball team most recently winning the College World Series and a national championship. Under the leadership of President DeCenzo, Athletics Director Matt Hogue, and all the Chanticleer coaches and student-athletes, I expect CCU to be very competitive in the Sun Belt immediately and represent the SBC in NCAA championships in the upcoming season.”
“July 1 ushers in a new wave of excitement at Coastal Carolina University as we officially join the Sun Belt Conference,” said Coastal Carolina University president Dr. David A. DeCenzo. “The entire Coastal Carolina community is excited about our transition and look forward to a new level of competition with our sister Sun Belt schools. We could not be more honored than to have been asked to join the Sun Belt Conference and look forward to a long and rewarding association with Commissioner Benson and the SBC schools.”
“We have been looking forward to July 1 for nearly a year now and are thrilled to now officially join the Sun Belt,” Coastal Carolina director of athletics Matt Hogue said. “This new era will bring new opportunities to not only our athletic programs, but our entire University and will support our strategy and vision to expand the Coastal Carolina brand nationally and globally. We are excited to begin competing with and working alongside the prestigious institutions of the Sun Belt.”
With the addition of Coastal Carolina, the Sun Belt Conference will now have a symmetrical, geographic structure that is unparalleled in the history of the conference. The league will have two universities in Alabama (South Alabama and Troy), Arkansas (Arkansas State and Little Rock), Georgia (Georgia Southern and Georgia State), Louisiana (UL Lafayette and UL Monroe) and Texas (UT Arlington and Texas State) to go with Appalachian State in North Carolina and Coastal Carolina in neighboring South Carolina.
The Sun Belt Conference will be an 11-team league in football until the 2018 season when Idaho and New Mexico State depart and Coastal Carolina joins to bring the membership to 10 teams. That season will be the first in which the Sun Belt Conference football champion will be determined by a championship game. The conference, with the addition of Coastal Carolina, will be a 12-team league beginning in the 2016-17 academic year in the following sports: baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s cross country, men’s golf, women’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field and volleyball. Coastal Carolina also sponsors men’s sports in cross country, outdoor track & field, soccer and tennis, and women’s sports in golf, soccer, softball and tennis.
The Sun Belt Conference begins a new era by not only solidifying its membership, but adding new bowl affiliations in 2016. The Sun Belt Conference holds primary bowl tie-ins with the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, the GoDaddy Bowl, the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl and the Cure Bowl. The conference will add the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl in Tucson, Ariz., to its list of primary bowl tie-ins beginning this upcoming season. The Sun Belt Conference became an exclusive member of the College Football Playoff in 2014 which gives its teams a chance to compete for college football’s ultimate title. One spot is guaranteed in the College Football Playoff’s “New Year’s Six” non-semifinal bowl games for the highest-ranked champion of the Sun Belt Conference or its four peer conferences (American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference and Mountain West Conference).