Sun Belt Conference
DivisionDivision I FBS
Members11 (10 beginning July 1, 2013)
Sports fielded19 (men's: 9; women's: 10)
RegionSouthern United States
HeadquartersNew Orleans, Louisiana
CommissionerKarl Benson (since 2012)

The Sun Belt Conference is a college athletic conference that has been affiliated with the NCAA's Division I since 1976. Originally a non-football conference, the Sun Belt began sponsoring football in 2001. Its football teams participate in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The 11 member institutions of the Sun Belt are distributed primarily across the southern United States.



The Sun Belt Conference was founded on August 4, 1976 with New Orleans, South Alabama, Georgia State, Jacksonville, Charlotte and South Florida. Over the next ten years the conference would add WKU, Old Dominion, UAB, and Virginia Commonwealth. Also, New Orleans was forced out of the league in 1980 due to its small on-campus gymnasium that the Conference did not deem suitable for Conference competition. UNO competed as an independent before joining the newly-formed American South Conference in 1987.

After the 199091 basketball season, all members of the Sun Belt except WKU, South Alabama, Jacksonville, and incoming member Arkansas–Little Rock departed for other conferences. The Sun Belt then merged with the American South Conference, made up of Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech, Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana–Lafayette), Texas–Pan American, New Orleans, Lamar, and UCF. Although the American South was the larger conference, the merged league retained the Sun Belt name. UCF left the league following the 1991-92 academic year. Lamar, Texas–Pan American and Jacksonville departed at the end of the 1997-98 academic year. FIU joined in 1998, and Denver was added in 1999. Louisiana Tech departed after the 2000-01 academic year.

The conference did not sponsor football until 2001, when the league added former Big West Conference members New Mexico State and North Texas and then-independent Middle Tennessee State as full members and added independent Louisiana–Monroe and Big West member Idaho as "football only" members. Another Big West school, Utah State, was added as a "football only" member in 2003, then departed in 2005 with Idaho and New Mexico State for the WAC.

In 2004, Troy became a "football only" member until 2005 when they joined the conference in all sports. In 2006, Louisiana–Monroe joined the conference as a member in all sports when it left the Southland Conference, and Florida Atlantic joined the conference in all sports.

On November 11, 2009, New Orleans announced they were investigating a move from Division I to the NCAA's Division III. In order to maintain athletic scholarships, UNO instead opted for entry into Division II. On April 20, 2011, UNO officially received transition approval from NCAA Division II Membership Committee.[1] (Since then, UNO has decided to remain in Division I and has since agreed to join the Southland Conference.)

Florida Atlantic joined the league as a member in all sports on July 1, 2006. WKU joined the Sun Belt Conference for football in 2009 after its Board of Regents voted to upgrade the school's football program to Division I FBS.[2]

On April 9, 2012, Georgia State, one of the founding members of the Sun Belt Conference, announced that it would be returning to the conference as a full member in 2013. As part of the move, the football program will begin a transition from FCS to FBS in the 2012 season; it will play a full Sun Belt schedule as a "transitional" FBS member in 2013, and become a full FBS member, with bowl eligibility, in 2014.[3] On May 2, 2012, Texas State announced it would leave the WAC after just one year and join the Sun Belt in July 2013 to begin play for the 2013-14 academic year. At the press conference to announce Texas State's addition, Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson also hinted that more changes could be on the way for the conference.[4] On May 25, 2012, the conference announced that the Texas–Arlington had accepted an invitation to join the conference and would become a full member by 2013.

Member schoolsEdit

Current membersEdit

The Sun Belt has 11 members for the 2012–2013 academic year. All of the full members compete in football except for Arkansas–Little Rock, the Sun Belt's lone non-football member.

Institution Nickname Location Founded Type Enrollment U.S. News Ranking[5] Joined
East Division
Florida Atlantic University Owls Boca Raton, Florida 1961 Public 29,290 &10000000000000205000000205–270
2005 (football)
2006 (all sports)
Florida International University Panthers Miami, Florida 1965 Public 47,966 &10000000000000205000000205–270
Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders Murfreesboro, Tennessee 1911 Public 24,660 &10000000000000205000000205–270
University of South Alabama Jaguars Mobile, Alabama 1963 Public 15,007 &10000000000000205000000205–270
Troy University Trojans Troy, Alabama 1887 Public 29,689 &1000000000000033500000067
(Regional: South)
2004 (football)
2005 (all sports)
Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers (men's)
Lady Toppers (women's)
Bowling Green, Kentucky 1906 Public 18,391 &1000000000000030100000033
(Regional: South)
West Division
University of Arkansas at Little Rock Trojans Little Rock, Arkansas 1927 Public 13,176 &10000000000000205000000205–270
Arkansas State University Red Wolves Jonesboro, Arkansas 1909 Public 13,415 &1000000000000032400000056
(Regional: South)
University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns Lafayette, Louisiana 1900 Public 16,885 &10000000000000205000000205–270
University of Louisiana at Monroe Warhawks Monroe, Louisiana 1931 Public 8,632 &1000000000000035900000091
(Regional: South)
2001 (football)
2006 (all sports)
University of North Texas Mean Green Denton, Texas 1890 Public 35,722 &10000000000000205000000205–270

Departing members in pink.

  • North Texas, FIU, Florida Atlantic, and Middle Tennessee will join Conference USA on July 1, 2013.
  • Arkansas–Little Rock is the only non-football member in the conference.

Future membersEdit

Institution Nickname Location Founded Type Enrollment U.S. News Ranking[6] Joins
Georgia State University Panthers Atlanta, Georgia 1913 Public 32,000 &10000000000000205000000205–270
Texas State University–San Marcos Bobcats San Marcos, Texas 1899 Public 34,113 &1000000000000031400000046
(Regional: West)
University of Texas at Arlington Mavericks Arlington, Texas 1895 Public 33,788 &10000000000000205000000205–270
  • Georgia State will become an all-sports member, including football, in 2013. However, as a transitional FBS school, it will not be eligible for the conference title, or for postseason play, until 2014.
  • Texas–Arlington will be a non-football member.

Former membersEdit

Institution Nickname Location Joined Left Current Conference
University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Blazers Birmingham, Alabama 1979 1991 C-USA
University of Central Florida (UCF) Knights Orlando, Florida 1991 1992 C-USA (Big East in 2013)
University of Denver Pioneers Denver, Colorado 1999 2012 WAC (The Summit League in 2013)
Jacksonville University Dolphins Jacksonville, Florida 1976 1998 Atlantic Sun (A-Sun)
Lamar University Cardinals Beaumont, Texas 1991 1998 Southland
Louisiana Tech University Bulldogs (men's)
Lady Techsters (women's)
Ruston, Louisiana 1991 2001 WAC (C-USA in 2013)
New Mexico State University Aggies Las Cruces, New Mexico 2000 2005 WAC
University of New Orleans Privateers New Orleans, Louisiana 1976
NCAA D-I Independent (Southland in 2013)
University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte) 49ers Charlotte, North Carolina 1976 1991 Atlantic 10 (A-10) (C-USA in 2013)
Old Dominion University Monarchs Norfolk, Virginia 1982 1991 CAA (C-USA in 2013)
University of South Florida Bulls Tampa, Florida 1976 1991 Big East
University of Texas–Pan American Broncs Edinburg, Texas 1991 1998 Great West (WAC in 2013)
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Rams Richmond, Virginia 1979 1991 Atlantic 10 (A-10)

Former affiliate membersEdit

Institution Nickname Location Joined Left Current Conference Sun Belt Sport
University of Idaho Vandals Moscow, Idaho 2001 2005 WAC (Independent in 2013) football
Utah State University Aggies Logan, Utah 2003 2005 WAC (Mountain West in 2013) football

Membership timelineEdit

University of Texas at ArlingtonTexas State University-San MarcosFlorida Atlantic UniversityTroy UniversityUtah State UniversityUniversity of Louisiana at MonroeUniversity of IdahoMiddle Tennessee State UniversityUniversity of North TexasNew Mexico State UniversityUniversity of DenverFlorida International UniversityUniversity of Louisiana at LafayetteArkansas State UniversityUniversity of Arkansas at Little RockLouisiana Tech UniversityUniversity of Texas-Pan AmericanLamar UniversityUniversity of Central FloridaWestern Kentucky UniversityOld Dominion UniversityVirginia Commonwealth UniversityUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamUniversity of South AlabamaGeorgia State UniversityUniversity of New OrleansJacksonville UniversityUniversity of South FloridaUniversity of North Carolina at Charlotte

Full members (non-football) Full members (all sports) Associate members (football-only)


In addition to the five Sun Belt commissioners, three future league leaders served on the Sun Belt staff prior to becoming conference commissioners, including Doug Elgin (Missouri Valley), John Iamarino (Northeast, Southern) and Tom Burnett (Southland).

On October 12, 2011, ESPN reported that Wright Waters would retire, effective July 1, 2012.[10] On February 15, 2012, Karl Benson was hired as the new commissioner of the Sun Belt, after having been the commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference for 17 years. Waters would later move his departure date to March 15, allowing Benson to take over at that time.[3]


The Sun Belt Conference sponsors championship competition in eight men's and ten women's NCAA sanctioned sports.[11] Future member Georgia State is an Associate member for men's and women's cross country and track and field.

Teams in Sun Belt Conference competition
Cross Country
Swimming & Diving
Track and Field (Indoor)
Track and Field (Outdoor)


40px For the current season, see 2012 Sun Belt Conference football season

Team First
Win %
Stadium Head Coach
Arkansas State 1911 426–455–37 .484 2 0–2 9 Liberty Bank Stadium Bryan Harsin
Florida Atlantic 2001 58–74 .439 2 2–0 1 FAU Stadium Carl Pelini
FIU 2002 39–79 .331 2 1–1 1 FIU Stadium Mario Cristobal
Georgia State 2010 10–23 .303 0 0–0 0 Georgia Dome Trent Miles
Louisiana–Lafayette 1902 484–515–31 .485 1 1–0 14 Cajun Field Mark Hudspeth
Louisiana–Monroe 1951 278–367–8 .432 0 0–0 5 Malone Stadium Todd Berry
Middle Tennessee 1911 527–394–28 .570 3 1–2 20 Johnny "Red" Floyd Stadium Rick Stockstill
North Texas 1913 476–459–35 .509 6 1–5 24 Apogee Stadium Dan McCarney
South Alabama 2009 23–4 .852 0 0–0 0 Ladd Peebles Stadium Joey Jones
Texas State 1904 481–392–28 .549 0 0–0 0 Jim Wacker Field at Bobcat Stadium Dennis Franchione
Troy 1909 494–368–27 .571 5 2–3 20 Veterans Memorial Stadium Larry Blakeney
WKU 1908 517–365–31 .583 2 2–0 11 Houchens Industries – L. T. Smith Stadium Bobby Petrino

Sun Belt champions

Season Champion Conference Record
2001 Middle Tennessee 5–1
North Texas
2002 North Texas 6–0
2003 North Texas 7–0
2004 North Texas 7–0
2005 Arkansas State 5–2
2006 Middle Tennessee 6–1
2007 Florida Atlantic 6–1
2008 Troy 6–1
2009 Troy 8–0
2010 FIU 6–2
2011 Arkansas State 8–0
2012 Arkansas State 7–1

Bowl games

Pick Name Location Opposing Conference Opposing Pick
1 Bowl Mobile, Alabama MAC 2
2 New Orleans Bowl New Orleans, Louisiana C-USA 5/6

The Sun Belt has secondary tie-ins to serve as an alternate in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl or Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl if the primary contracted participants cannot participate.[13]


Football rivalries involving Sun Belt teams include:

Teams Rivalry Name Trophy Meetings Record Series Leader Current Streak
Arkansas State Louisiana–Monroe Trail of Tears Classic 33 19–14 Arkansas State Arkansas State won 2
Arkansas State Memphis Paint Bucket Bowl 55 23–27–5 Memphis Arkansas State won 1
Florida Atlantic FIU Shula Bowl Don Shula Award 10 8–2 Florida Atlantic FIU won 2
Louisiana–Lafayette Lamar Sabine Shoe 33 22–11 Louisiana–Lafayette Louisiana–Lafayette won 3
Louisiana–Lafayette Louisiana–Monroe Battle on the Bayou Wooden Boot 47 24–23 Louisiana–Lafayette Louisiana–Lafayette won 4
Louisiana–Lafayette McNeese State Cajun Crown 37 15–20–2 McNeese State McNeese State won 1
Louisiana–Lafayette Southeastern Louisiana Cypress Mug 39 19–17–3 Louisiana–Lafayette Southeastern Louisiana won 1
Middle Tennessee Troy Battle for the Palladium Palladium 20 12–8 Middle Tennessee Middle Tennessee won 1
North Texas SMU Safeway Bowl 33 4–28–1 SMU SMU won 1
Texas State Nicholls State Battle for the Paddle Paddle 30 14–16 Nicholls State Texas State won 1
WKU Eastern Kentucky Battle of the Bluegrass 9 46–35–3 WKU WKU won 2


Season Men's Regular Season Champion Men's Tournament Champion Women's Regular Season Champion Women's Tournament Champion
1977 UNC Charlotte UNC Charlotte No Regular Season No Tournament
1978 UNC Charlotte New Orleans No Regular Season No Tournament
1979 South Alabama Jacksonville No Regular Season No Tournament
1980 South Alabama VCU No Regular Season No Tournament
1981 VCU VCU No Regular Season No Tournament
1982 UAB UAB No Regular Season No Tournament
1983 VCU UAB Old Dominion Old Dominion
1984 VCU UAB Old Dominion Old Dominion
1985 VCU VCU Old Dominion Old Dominion
1986 Old Dominion Jacksonville WKU WKU
1987 WKU UAB Old Dominion Old Dominion
1988 UNC Charlotte UNC Charlotte Old Dominion WKU
1989 South Alabama South Alabama Old Dominion WKU
1990 UAB South Florida UAB Old Dominion
1991 South Alabama South Alabama UAB WKU
1992 Southwestern Louisiana Southwestern Louisiana WKU WKU
1993 New Orleans WKU WKU WKU
1994 WKU Southwestern Louisiana Louisiana Tech Louisiana Tech
1995 WKU WKU Louisiana Tech WKU
1996 Arkansas–Little Rock New Orleans Louisiana Tech Louisiana Tech
1997 South Alabama South Alabama Louisiana Tech Louisiana Tech
1998 South Alabama South Alabama Louisiana Tech Louisiana Tech
1999 Louisiana Tech Arkansas State Louisiana Tech Louisiana Tech
2000 Louisiana–Lafayette Louisiana–Lafayette Louisiana Tech Louisiana Tech
2001 WKU WKU Louisiana Tech Louisiana Tech
2004 Vacated Vacated South Alabama Middle Tennessee
2005 Denver Vacated WKU Middle Tennessee
2006 WKU South Alabama WKU Middle Tennessee
2007 South Alabama North Texas Middle Tennessee Middle Tennessee
2008 South Alabama WKU WKU WKU
2009 WKU WKU Middle Tennessee Middle Tennessee
2010 Troy North Texas Arkansas–Little Rock Middle Tennessee
2011 Florida Atlantic Arkansas–Little Rock Middle Tennessee
Arkansas–Little Rock
Arkansas–Little Rock
2012 Middle Tennessee WKU Middle Tennessee Arkansas–Little Rock


The Sun Belt Conference has sponsored an annual baseball tournament to determine the conference winner since 1978. South Alabama has won the most championships, at 11.

School Tourney Titles Title Years
South Alabama 11 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1992, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2005
New Orleans 3 1978, 1979, 2007
South Florida 3 1982, 1986, 1990
FIU 2 1999, 2010
Lamar 2 1993, 1995
Middle Tennessee 2 2003, 2009
WKU 2 2004, 2008
Alabama–Birmingham 1 1991
Arkansas–Little Rock 1 2011
Arkansas State 1 1994
Jacksonville 1 1989
Southwestern Louisiana 1 1998
Louisiana-Monroe 1 2012
New Mexico State 1 2002
Old Dominion 1 1985
Troy 1 2006
Virginia Commonwealth 1 1988
  • Teams in bold represent current conference members.
Season Regular Season Champion Tournament Champion
1978 New Orleans New Orleans
1979 New Orleans New Orleans
1980 South Alabama South Alabama
1981 South Alabama South Alabama
1982 South Florida South Florida
1983 South Alabama South Alabama
1984 South Alabama South Alabama
1985 Old Dominion Old Dominion
1986 South Florida South Florida
1987 South Alabama South Alabama
1988 Virginia Commonwealth Virginia Commonwealth
1989 Jacksonville Jacksonville
1990 South Florida South Florida
1991 Alabama–Birmingham Alabama–Birmingham
1992 South Alabama South Alabama
1993 Lamar Lamar
1994 Arkansas State Arkansas State
1995 Jacksonville Lamar
1996 South Alabama South Alabama
1997 Southwestern Louisiana South Alabama
1998 South Alabama Southwestern Louisiana
1999 South Alabama Florida International
2000 New Orleans South Alabama
2001 Middle Tennessee
South Alabama
South Alabama
2002 South Alabama New Mexico State
2003 South Alabama Middle Tennessee
2004 Middle Tennessee
South Alabama
2005 Louisiana–Lafayette South Alabama
2006 Troy Troy
2007 Louisiana–Lafayette New Orleans
2008 Louisiana–Monroe WKU
2009 Middle Tennessee
Middle Tennessee
2010 Florida Atlantic
Florida International
2011 Troy Arkansas–Little Rock
2012 Florida Atlantic

Championships Edit

NCAA championsEdit

The following current Sun Belt teams have won NCAA Division I team championships:

School NCAA titles Sport Years
Louisiana–Monroe 1 Football (Division I-AA) 1987
North Texas 4 Men's golf 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952
WKU 1 Football (Division I-AA) 2002


School Football Stadium Capacity Basketball Arena Capacity Baseball Stadium Capacity
Arkansas–Little Rock Non-football school Jack Stephens Center 5,600 Gary Hogan Field 2,550
Arkansas State Liberty Bank Stadium 33,410 Convocation Center 10,563 Tomlinson Stadium–Kell Field 1,000
Florida Atlantic FAU Stadium 30,000 FAU Arena 5,000 FAU Baseball Stadium 3,000
FIU FIU Stadium 23,500 U.S. Century Bank Arena 5,000 FIU Baseball Stadium 2,000
Georgia State Georgia Dome 71,228 GSU Sports Arena 4,500 GSU Baseball Complex 1,092
Louisiana–Lafayette Cajun Field 31,000 Cajundome (men)
Earl K. Long Gymnasium (women)
M.L. Tigue Moore Field 3,755
Louisiana–Monroe Malone Stadium 30,427 Fant–Ewing Coliseum 7,085 Warhawk Field 1,800
Middle Tennessee Johnny "Red" Floyd Stadium 31,000 Murphy Center 11,802 Reese Smith Jr. Field 2,600
North Texas Apogee Stadium 30,850 UNT Coliseum 10,032 Non-baseball school
South Alabama Ladd Peebles Stadium 40,646 Mitchell Center 10,041 Eddie Stanky Field 4,500
Texas State Bobcat Stadium 30,000 Strahan Coliseum 7,200 Bobcat Baseball Stadium 2,000
Texas–Arlington Non-football school College Park Center 7,000 Clay Gould Ballpark 1,600
Troy Veterans Memorial Stadium 30,000 Trojan Arena 6,000 Riddle–Pace Field 2,000
Western Kentucky Houchens Industries – L. T. Smith Stadium 22,000 E. A. Diddle Arena 7,326 Nick Denes Field 1,500



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