New Sun Belt Conference theme puts student-athletes first

Whether it's a 6 a.m. wakeup for practice or the challenge of balancing a double major, student-athletes strive for success in everything they do.  In their work pursuing a degree, in competition, and in life - student-athletes make this a winning combination as they achieve their goals.

In 2009-10 the Sun Belt Conference will embark on a new campaign with the theme "Education, Sports, Life - A Winning Combination."

The Sun Belt Conference strives to be associated with messages that enhance the overall value of higher education and reflects the integration and balance that student-athletes achieve every day between academics and athletics. The theme "Education, Sports, Life - A Winning Combination." lends itself to telling the story of Sun Belt Conference student-athletes.  The Sun Belt Conference has many great accomplishments in competition that should be highlighted, at the same time the Sun Belt has many great accomplishments in everyday life and in the classroom that should be highlighted.  The stories of obstacles that student-athletes overcome and the achievements they earn should be told.

While there are 31 NCAA conferences that sponsor multiple sports, the Sun Belt is one of only 11 to participate in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and Football Bowl Subdivision. The Sun Belt was formed in 1976 with six members competing in four men's sports, and today comprises 13 institutions of higher learning while sponsoring 19 championship sports for men and women.

The Sun Belt Conference enters its 34th season in 2009-10 with a proud history of athletic and academic success. The conference sponsors 10 women's sports - basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field, and volleyball; and nine men's sports - baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, swimming and diving, tennis, and indoor and outdoor track and field.

Each of the 19 sports has seen numerous team and individual accomplishments, and nearly every Sun Belt Conference school is currently graduating its student-athletes at a rate higher than its respective school's student body. All Sun Belt schools are committed to excellence in the 21st century, and facility upgrades and expansions are taking place on every campus.

Prominent Sun Belt alumni include former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (Denver), NFL Hall of Fame football player "Mean" Joe Greene (North Texas), Florida Marlins All-Star baseball player Luis Gonzalez (South Alabama), Boston Red Sox baseball player Mike Lowell (MLB All-Star and 2007 MLB World Series MVP, FIU), former member of the United States Senate and House of Representatives John Breaux (Louisiana-Lafayette), country music superstar Tim McGraw (Louisiana-Monroe), and actor Andy Garcia (FIU).

The conference's first 33 years have also produced numerous individual national champions along with Olympic track medalists including Earl Bell, Tom Hill and Al Joyner (Arkansas State), Hollis Conway (Louisiana-Lafayette), and Tayna Lawrence (FIU). Old Dominion's Anne Donovan, who received the Naismith Trophy recognizing the nation's top women's basketball player in 1983, helped the United States win the Olympic gold medal in 1984 and helped the Lady Monarchs capture the national championship in 1985 (one of eight women's Final Four appearances by Sun Belt schools: Old Dominion - 1983, 1985; WKU - 1985, 1986, 1992; Louisiana Tech - 1994, 1998, 1999). Sun Belt teams have also participated in the men's NCAA Final Four (Charlotte 1977), the College World Series (Louisiana-Lafayette 2000), the women's College World Series (Louisiana-Lafayette 1993, 1995, 1996, 2003, 2008), and have had 11 players selected in the first round of the NBA Draft.