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.
As the calendar flips from February to March, Texas State officially has a new defensive boss.
Thursday morning, the Bobcats confirmed previous reports that Chris Woods has been named as Everett Withers‘ defensive coordinator. Woods replaces Randall McCray, who left two weeks ago for a job with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.
Woods has spent the past three seasons as a defensive specialist at Oklahoma. Prior to that, Woods had served as the coordinator at Columbia University of the Ivy League as well as Holmes Community College in Mississippi.
Last season, the Bobcats were 105th (out of 129 teams) in scoring defense at 33.6 points per game and 102nd in total defense, giving up 438.9 yards per game. The previous year, the first under McRay, TSU was 117th (470 ypg) and 125th (41.1 ppg) in those two categories, respectively.
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:
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.
With the Houston region still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, the University of Houston has taken on a role of organizing relief efforts in any way they can. Basketball coach Kelvin Sampson‘s effort to encourage other programs to send in shirts and shoes and other forms of equipment to help spread around to those in need has been well received. Continuing on that effort, football programs around the state of Texas have put their equipment trucks to good use to help deliver goods to those who need it.
Trucks provided by Baylor, Texas, Texas State, North Texas, SMU, and Texas Tech have joined Houston’s own equipment truck to help out with distributing donated goods.
Houston’s season opening game at UTSA was postponed earlier this week so Houston could focus on taking care of matters closer to home rather than focus on a football game.
Hurricane Harvey has jostled the plans for a number of college football teams across southeast Texas, but Texas State announced Tuesday its opener against Houston Baptist will be played as scheduled on Saturday night. The Bobcats and Huskies will meet at 6 p.m. local time and broadcast on WatchESPN.
“First of all, I want to say that our thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected by Hurricane Harvey,” Texas State AD Larry Teis said in a statement. “We encourage our fans to support relief efforts for the victims. We have reached out to HBU’s Athletics staff and both schools agreed to play the game at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Bobcat Stadium.”
Texas State’s home of San Marcos, located roughly equidistant between Austin and San Antonio, has experienced heavy rainfall but avoided the flooding that has so devastated the coastal areas of Texas.
Texas State cancelled classes and university events last weekend, and some areas on campus did experience minor flooding. Some 500 San Marcos residents experienced power outages as well, according to the University Star.
“At this time, while our prayers are with all those affected by this storm, we believe we will be able to get to San Marcos in time for kickoff on Saturday,” HBU AD Steve Moniaci said. “We are all going to be thinking about those we know who have been so heavily affected by the overwhelming devastation we have all seen, but the game itself will hopefully be a good diversion to what many of our families here in Houston and throughout south Texas are experiencing.”
Houston Baptist launched its football program in 2013 and has competed in the Southland Conference of FCS since 2014. The Huskies are 11-29 all-time, and the Texas State match will represent HBU’s second game against an FBS opponent (their first was a 42-10 loss to UTEP last November.) Texas State is looking to improve upon a 2-10 mark in its second season under head coach Everett Withers.
As for other Houston and southeast Texas-area games: Houston-UTSA has been canceled; Prairie View A&M-Texas Southern has been postponed; No. 13 LSU-BYU has been moved from Houston to New Orleans; and Sam Houston State’s home date with Richmond has been moved to Baylor’s McLane Stadium on Friday night. No. 23 Texas will host Maryland at 11 a.m. local time Saturday as scheduled; Lamar will visit North Texas as scheduled Saturday evening; and Texas A&M is on the road at UCLA on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX). Rice is off this weekend.