Welcome to the postseason party, Sun Belt.
Earlier this month, the Big 12 announced that it had voted unanimously to reinstate the conference’s title game following the 2017 regular season. A couple of days later, and following up on multiple reports, the Sun Belt has decided to create its own league championship game, only theirs will wait to kick off until after the 2018 regular season.
The league made the announcement at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
“This is a historic moment that represents yet another step forward for the Sun Belt Conference,” said commissioner Karl Benson. “The membership of the Sun Belt has been engaged in a significant number of advancements for the betterment of the league – to an extent this is the culmination of those efforts. …
“Sun Belt football student-athletes will make everlasting memories playing in the championship game during the upcoming years. This championship will be a first-class experience –- and we look forward to it being a launching-pad for a team to reach the College Football Playoff’s ‘New Year’s Six’ bowl games.”
Prior to today’s announcement, the SBC was the only FBS league that either didn’t already contest a league title game or have one in the works.
Like the Big 12, the SBC benefitted from the deregulation of championship games earlier this year, with the nine FBS conferences, by a 7-2 margin, voting to permit leagues with fewer than the mandated 12 members to hold title games.
The SBC is currently an 11-team conference, but will lose Idaho and New Mexico State following the 2017 season. However, Coastal Carolina will become a full-fledged FBS member for the 2018 season — they’re joining the conference in football on a provisional basis in 2017 — bringing the league back up to the minimum of 10 members.
The conference has not yet decided whether it will split into two, five-team divisions. Also to be worked out: whether the title game will be played at a neutral site or at the home stadium of the team that finished with the best record.