On Tuesday, the Sun Belt Conference officially added Coastal Carolina as its 12th football-playing member. It will begin play in the league in 2017, but ineligible for the postseason. In 2018, the Chanticleers will become full-time members of the Football Bowl Subdivision, moving up from the Football Championship Subdivision.
That also is the same year the Idaho Vandals could be in a different conference, or perhaps back in the FCS ranks.
Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson addressed the league's future in a teleconference, and did not guarantee Idaho or New Mexico State, football-only members, would be around. Both schools signed four-year agreements in the spring of 2013, to begin with the 2014 season, up for extension after two seasons. The Sun Belt will decide whether or not to extend those agreements in January, Benson said.
"That process will occur after the 2015 season, there will be an evaluation, an assessment and a decision made whether to extend the football-only membership for New Mexico State and Idaho," Benson said. "I think it’s premature now to even speculate as to what that decision is."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Idaho Statesman
Also around that time, Benson expects the NCAA to lift its requirement to have a minimum of 12 teams for a conference championship game.
"That will then kind of set the course of action in terms of whether we can conduct the game whether we’re a 12-, 11- or 10-team league," Benson said.
In an interview with the Idaho Statesman in late March, Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear was asked about the impending decision, and he said "all indications" were that the agreement would be extended. The Vandals have one win each of the last three seasons (two against the Aggies) and were projected to finish last this season by the league's coaches. New Mexico State has four wins the last two seasons, with one of them coming against Idaho.
Below is a replay of Benson’s teleconference. He addresses Idaho and New Mexico State beginning at the 19:30 mark.