NEW ORLEANS (SunBeltSports.org) - Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson released the following statement on the conference bowl situation:
"While I am happy to have a record number of Sun Belt teams in bowl games this season, I would be even happier if Middle Tennessee would have received a bid. Additionally, our persistent efforts working for Arkansas State to appear in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl were not rewarded. I am disappointed with both of these outcomes and I understand why our fans feel so strongly about the results. Like our fans, coaches and student-athletes, I wanted what was best for Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee.
"I am also disappointed to hear that there is public opinion that I worked against schools in our conference – that could not be further from the truth. In fact, a great deal of work was done with our member institutions in an attempt to get the best possible outcome for bowl games.
"I also understand that there is frustration that Middle Tennessee was not selected since they finished in a tie for second place in the league standings, but it is important to note that between our two bowl agreements only the league champion must be accommodated. Arkansas State as league champion will be playing in the Godaddy.com Bowl and the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, which by contract had first selection regardless of standings, chose Louisiana-Lafayette. The AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl and Little Caesars Pizza Bowl are not bowls that the Sun Belt Conference is contracted with, thus they were free to take whichever school they wanted. The same is true with the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and their desire to take Iowa State. Those bowl games chose the teams that they wanted the most.
"There has also been a lot of talk about Middle Tennessee being left out of a bowl game because they have announced that they will be leaving the Sun Belt Conference. At no point in time was that ever part of any conversation between Sun Belt officials and a representative of a bowl game. It truly was a nonfactor in how the selections were made. Again to reiterate, the bowl games selected the teams that they most wanted."