The Sun Belt Conference will add a conference football championship game to the schedule starting in 2018. Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com was among the first to report the news of a Sun Belt championship game, and the Associated Press confirmed the report. A week after the Big 12 announced plans to revive its conference championship game, the new Sun Belt conference title game means every Football Bowl Subdivision conference will hold a conference championship game in the near future.
The Sun Belt Conference is expected to make the announcement official on Wednesday. The conference has sent out a media memo about a conference call scheduled for Wednesday with commissioner Karl Benson and Texas State University president Dr. Denise Trauth scheduled to be available. So, why the wait until 2018? That’s a good question, and perhaps one that will have to wait to be answered during the conference call.
It could be a numbers game. For the next two seasons, the Sun Belt Conference will play with 11 football-playing members. After the 2017 season, the Sun Belt will part ways with football-only members Idaho and New Mexico State. At the same time, the conference will add Coastal Carolina as the program moves up a level in competition from the Football Championship Subdivision in 2018. When all the changes are complete, the Sun Belt will have 10 members. Unless that number changes between now and 2018, it may be likely the conference will pit the top two teams in the conference against one another at the site of the first-place school, as opposed to a division format and utilizing a neutral field.
The addition of a conference championship game comes at a critical time for the Sun Belt Conference. Despite having a partnership with ESPN, the Sun Belt pays out roughly $100,000 per school through its media rights contract, which is last among all FBS conferences according to a report from The Virginia Pilot. Simply adding a conference championship game alone may not make a drastic change in revenue shares, but every little bit would help. An extra game is guaranteed to be place don TV and the opportunity for extra advertising revenue and a corporate sponsor helps as well.