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Sun Belt announces new eight-year deal with ESPN running through 2027 season

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The four letter is signing up for more #FunBelt.

The Sun Belt conference announced on Thursday that they have agreed to a new eight-year contract with ESPN that will run through the 2027 football season and the 2027-28 academic year.

“The continuation of our agreement with ESPN marks one of the most historic announcements since the Sun Belt’s founding in 1976,” Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said in a statement.  “This is truly an ‘all in’ collaboration with ESPN, the Sun Belt, and our member institutions and the volume and accessibility of our games will have a profound impact on the future of the Sun Belt.  We have enjoyed a long relationship with ESPN since its founding in 1979 and we look forward to being featured on its newest platform, ESPN+, which promises to revolutionize how audiences view content.”

Most notably, it was confirmed that the inaugural Sun Belt Football Championship Game will be played on Saturday, December 1st and will be televised on either ABC, ESPN or ESPN2. Future championship games will also be on one of the three networks after the conference moved to a divisional format starting in 2018. The new deal also includes a guarantee that all Sun Belt home football games will be available on an ESPN platform and that at least 10 games will be televised on either ABC or one of the ESPN cable networks.

Naturally, many of the league’s other sports such as men’s basketball were also covered under the umbrella of the new contract. The bulk of those games from women’s basketball to soccer and beyond will wind up on the new ESPN+ streaming platform that the Disney-owned company is launching in the coming weeks.

No monetary terms were announced as part of the deal but it’s safe to assume that the TV revenues won’t be in the same ballpark as their Power Five peers such as the SEC or ACC. Still, given the challenges we’ve seen in the Mountain West and Conference USA (among others) in this new media environment, it seems the Sun Belt has locked up a quality partnership with ESPN for the long-term and granted some stability for the league in the coming years.

Sun Belt reveals 2018 schedule, first title game set for Dec. 1

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The Sun Belt on Tuesday announced its 2018 schedule, leaving the Mountain West as the only FBS league yet to reveal its slate. The 2018 season begins Thursday, Aug. 30, with Georgia State hosting Kennesaw State. The first conference game goes down Sept. 15 when Texas State visits South Alabama.

Tuesday’s announcement was significant for more than just the revelation of dates of games. It brings to a close the conference’s realignment moves that saw Idaho and New Mexico State get the boot and the league join the rest of its peers in adding a championship game. The inaugural Sun Belt Championship will take place on Saturday, Dec. 1, at a campus site and be televised on either ABC, ESPN or ESPN2.

The Sun Belt’s roster now consists of 10 teams, but unlike the Big 12, the Sun Belt will split into two divisions:

EAST
Appalachian State
Coastal Carolina
Georgia Southern
Georgia State
Troy

WEST
Arkansas State
Louisiana-Lafayette
Louisiana-Monroe
South Alabama
Texas State

Appalachian State and Arkansas State have been the kings of the Sun Belt over the past three seasons, each going 21-3 from 2015-17. The Mountaineers and Red Wolves did not play in 2016 or ’17, but will square off in 2018. The two will square off on Oct. 9, a Tuesday, in Jonesboro for an ESPN2 game.

Troy has gone 13-3 over the past two seasons and split the 2017 title with Appalachian State after the Trojans and Mountaineers also did not meet during the season. That also changes in 2018 (and every season moving forward with the new divisional structure) as Appalachian State hosts Troy on Nov. 24 in a game that figures to decide the first Sun Belt East championship. Troy clinched its share of the 2017 crown with a 32-25 win over Arkansas State (6-2 in SBC play in 2017) on the first Saturday in December, and now the rematch could come in an actual championship game.

Unlike the Big 12, the Sun Belt will not play a 9-game, round-robin schedule. The Sun Belt will remain an 8-game league.

 

Former CFB Hall of Fame RB Adrian Peterson returns to Georgia Southern in support role

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Before there was Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson, there was Georgia Southern’s Adrian Peterson. The original Peterson was an outstanding running back in his own right, carrying for a 6,559 yards in regular season games, which still stands as a Division I record. (Georgia Southern was an FCS school when Peterson was there from 1998-01.)

Peterson was selected in the sixth round of the 2002 NFL Draft and appeared in 106 games over eight seasons with the Chicago Bears. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December.

And now he’s back in Statesboro.

Peterson was formally hired as Georgia Southern’s director of student-athlete development for the Eagles’ football program, where he will work to “provide communication to the football staff on the academic progress of all 100-plus student-athletes on the team.”

“Adding Adrian Peterson to our staff is something that means a lot to Georgia Southern and to our community,” head coach Chad Lunsford said in a statement. “He will serve a daily role in the lives of our student-athletes. His life experiences will definitely be of great benefit to our players and he will be able to serve them as a role model for them. We keep talking about the right fit and blue collar and no exemplifies that more than AP. He will be a huge asset to this program and I’m fired up to be able to get him back to Statesboro.”

“It’s an honor to be back at Georgia Southern, a University that helped me grow as a young man,” Peterson said in a statement. “Now I get the opportunity help our student-athletes grow on and off the field.”

One of two former Georgia Southern players in the College Football Hall of Fame, he is the second former Eagle running back to join the program in recent weeks. T.J. Anderson was hired last month as director of high school relations.

Ex-Clemson DB Amir Trapp one of three FBS players transferring to FCS Furman

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One FCS team’s roster will have a decidedly FBS tinge to it this season.

Furman announced Thursday that it has added three FBS transfer players to its football program — defensive end Melton Brown from Georgia Southern, running back Cooper Hardin from Navy and cornerback/return specialist Amir Trapp from Clemson.  As the Paladins play at the FCS level, all three will be eligible to play for the school this coming season.

Out of the trio, Trapp likely holds the most name recognition, such as it is.

A three-star member of the Tigers’ 2015 recruiting class, Trapp was rated as the No. 28 player at any position in the state of South Carolina.  After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Trapp played in 13 games the past two seasons.

In mid-December, Trapp, whose father played football for the Tigers, announced he would be transferring out of the program.  He’ll have two years of eligibility remaining that he can use at his new football home.

Brown played in one game for the Eagles this past season, while Hardin didn’t play a down for the Midshipmen.  Each of those players will have three years of eligibility remaining.

Washington State among future series announced by Boise State

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It was quite the busy day on the scheduling front for Boise State.

Boise announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement on a handful of future home-and-home series.  The most noteworthy of the four is Washington State, with the two teams set to meet Sept. 19, 2026, in Pullman and then again Sept. 27, 2027, in Boise.

The Broncos and Cougars completed a home-and-home series earlier this year, and have met four other times.  After splitting that series, Wazzu now owns a 5-1 edge in the miniseries.

“We are pleased to continue our series with Boise State beginning in 2026,” WSU said in a statement. “Our goal is to always add quality, nonconference opponents to our schedule that our fan base enjoys. I expect the same excitement that the last two seasons have generated to continue when the series resumes.”

In addition to Wazzu, Boise also added future home-and-homes against Houston (2021 and 2024), East Carolina (2026 and 2028) and Georgia Southern (2020 and 2024).

“As we set out to fill our future schedules, our primary goal was to find balance that provides the best opportunity for our program to be successful,” Boise athletic director Curt Apsey said in his statement. “We wanted to find home games that would excite our fan base, and allow our team to be in the national conversation each season.”