This story was originally published by The Signal on June 11, 2016
Coming in 2018: A Sun Belt Championship football game
June 11, 2016 Woody Bass
A conference championship game is coming to a stadium near you, according to a Sun Belt announcement that was made on June 8. The first Sun Belt Championship game, approved by a unanimous vote, will be played following the 2018 regular season and marks the last conference, following a similar decision by the Big 12, to make such a move.
This vote by conference membership falls on the heels of the NCAA’s ruling by the Division I Council early this year that allowed conferences with membership under 12 institutions to operate a championship game to determine the winner of the conference.
A few possibilities exist, and will be revealed at a later date, to determine how the two teams that play in the championship game will be selected. One possibility is the SEC model where the conference is divided into divisions and the winner of each division faces off in the championship game. The other model, similar to the Big 12, is where every team will play every team and the two teams with the best record proceeds to the championship game to determine the conference champion.
Decisions regarding where the game will be played are also a work in progress with a few possibilities including a neutral site game similar to the SEC Championship game currently played in the Georgia Dome, or the stadium of the team with the best record. The Sun Belt conference headquarters are based at 1500 Sugar Bowl Drive New Orleans, Louisiana, 70112 – the exact address of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“This is a great development because it adds yet another important game to the menu that college football fans will be able to enjoy,” said Bill Hancock, executive director for the College Football Playoff, in the release from the Sun Belt. “For the CFP selection committee, the more games matching quality opponents, the better.”
Georgia State football will enter their sixth season as a Division I program when 2018 rolls around and the team will be aiming for three straight visits to the bowl season following their first trip to the Cure Bowl after the 2015 regular season. A trip to the inaugural Sun Belt Championship game would be the icing on the cake for the young program on the rise.
“Having a Sun Belt championship will create a memorable experience for our student-athletes to compete in a championship game,” said Panthers Head Coach Trent Miles in the release. “It also provides an opportunity for the conference to showcase its top two teams on a national stage while bringing the Sun Belt in line with all the other FBS conferences.”
Georgia State Athletic Director Charlie Cobb felt pleased about the move by the Sun Belt.
“I think it was great decision,” he told The Signal in an interview. “To be the only league that didn’t have a championship game, especially after the announcement from the Big 12, put us on an island and feel really good about the fact that we can make it work.”