SANDESTIN, Fla. (Sun Belt Conference) – As its annual league meetings concluded Wednesday, the Sun Belt Conference embraces the future and the guarantees of continued success for the conference. Additionally, the University of Texas-Arlington accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt, and pending the approval of the UT Board of Regents, the Mavericks will become the 12th member institution in the Sun Belt.
In conclusion of the meetings, it is the opinion of Sun Belt leadership that:
1. The Sun Belt Conference has been proactive throughout the realignment process and the changes that have taken place to the league's membership have not weakened the conference. In fact, the league's membership and strength have been bolstered while several other conferences have taken steps backwards during the realignment process.
2. The previously announced additions of Georgia State and Texas State and the additional announcement that UT Arlington will also join the league on July 1, 2013, provides a logical geographical footprint for the Sun Belt Conference. The league can easily be divided in two divisions for men's and women's basketball and volleyball with Florida Atlantic, Georgia State, Middle Tennessee, South Alabama, Troy and Western Kentucky University comprising the East Division. The West Division will include UALR, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Texas-Arlington and Texas State.
3. As for the possibility of conducting a football championship game, in the near future the Sun Belt will conduct a very deliberate and thorough evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of a football championship game. At this time, the Sun Belt is committed to strengthening its current membership and taking advantage of the new members that have been added.
4. An important step taken this week was the approval of a five year strategic plan that will develop the measures for success that will set the conference's path through 2017. The plan set forward is part of the league's Strategic Planning Committee, headed by Western Kentucky University President Dr. Gary Ransdell. The goals for the strategic plan include improving the conference's revenue profile, continuing television negotiations, strengthening championship competition, improving RPI rankings for all sports - but with an emphasis on men's and women's basketball and baseball, improving conference's BCS rankings, improving the conference Academic Progress Ratings (APR) rankings and strengthening the Sun Belt brand.
5. The Sun Belt Conference must expand its national brand recognition and undergo a complete brand enhancement study. If the league's goal is to complete at the highest level of collegiate athletics, the conference and its member institutions must be prepared to do so from a marketing and brand identity standpoint.
The Sun Belt Conference's annual meetings include the senior staff of the conference office along with each member school's Chief Executive Officer, Faculty Athletic Representative, Director of Athletics, Senior Woman Administrator, Head Football Coach, Head Men's Basketball Coach and Head Women's Basketball Coach. Representatives from future members Texas State, Georgia State and UT Arlington were present at the meetings.
Additional topics of discussion included conference expansion, Sun Belt Conference leadership positions and Sun Belt Conference championships.