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The Sun Belt Conference is a college athletic conference that has been affiliated with the NCAA's Division I since 1976. Its football teams participate in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the higher of two levels of Division I football competition (formerly known as Division I-A). The Sun Belt has member institutions distributed primarily across the southern United Statesmarker. It has 13 universities and colleges.


The Sun Belt Conference was founded on August 4, 1976 with New Orleans, South Alabama, Georgia State, Jacksonville, North Carolina-Charlotte and South Florida. Over the next ten years the conference would add Western Kentucky, Old Dominion, UAB, and Virginia Commonwealth. Also, New Orleans was forced out of the league in 1980 due to its small on-campus gymnasium that the Conference did not deem suitable for Conference competition. UNO competed as an independent before joining the newly-formed American South Conference in 1987.

After the 1990-91 basketball season, all members of the Sun Belt except Western Kentuckymarker, South Alabamamarker, Jacksonvillemarker, and incoming member Arkansas-Little Rockmarker departed for other conferences. The Sun Belt then merged with the American South Conference, made up of Arkansas Statemarker, Louisiana Tech, Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana-Lafayette), Texas-Pan Americanmarker, New Orleans, Lamar, and Central Floridamarker. UCF left the league following the 1991-92 academic year. Lamar, Texas-Pan American and Jacksonville departed at the end of the 1997-98 academic year. Florida International joined in 1998, and Denver was added in 1999. Louisiana Tech departed after the 2000-01 academic year.

The conference did not sponsor football until 2001, when the league added former Big West Conference members New Mexico Statemarker and North Texasmarker and then-independent Middle Tennessee Statemarker as full members and added independent Louisiana-Monroemarker (ULM) and Big West member Idahomarker as "football only" members. Another Big West school, Utah State, was added as a "football only" member in 2003, then departed in 2005 with Idaho and New Mexico State for the WAC.

In 2005, Troy joined the conference. In 2006, Louisiana-Monroe joined the conference as a member in all sports, and Florida Atlantic joined the conference.

Membership history timeline

DateFormat = yyyyImageSize = width:750 height:auto barincrement:20Period = from:1976 till:2010TimeAxis = orientation:horizontalPlotArea = right:30 left:0 bottom:50 top:5

Colors = id:barcolor value:rgb(0.99,0.7,0.7)
        id:line     value:black
        id:bg       value:white

 width:15 textcolor:black shift:(5,-5) anchor:from fontsize:s

 bar:1  color:orange from:1976 till:1981 text:Georgia State Universitymarker (1976-1981)
 bar:2  color:orange from:1976 till:1991 text:University of North Carolina at Charlottemarker (1976-1991)
 bar:3  color:orange from:1976 till:1991 text:University of South Floridamarker (1976-1991)
 bar:4  color:orange from:1976 till:1998 text:Jacksonville Universitymarker (1976-1998)
 bar:5  color:orange from:1976 till:1980 text:University of New Orleans (1976-1980)
        color:orange from:1991 till:end text: (1991-present)
 bar:6  color:orange from:1976 till:end text:University of South Alabamamarker (1976-present)
 bar:7  color:orange from:1979 till:1991 text:University of Alabama at Birmingham (1979-1991)
 bar:8  color:orange from:1979 till:1991 text:Virginia Commonwealth Universitymarker (1979-1991)
 bar:9  color:orange from:1982 till:1991 text:Old Dominion Universitymarker (1982-1991)
 bar:10 color:orange from:1982 till:end text:Western Kentucky Universitymarker (1982-present)
 bar:11 color:orange from:1991 till:end text:University of Arkansas at Little Rockmarker (1991-present)
 bar:12 color:orange from:1991 till:1992 text:University of Central Floridamarker (1991-1992)
 bar:13 color:orange from:1991 till:1998 text:Lamar University (1991-1998)
 bar:14 color:orange from:1991 till:1998 text:University of Texas-Pan Americanmarker (1991-1998)
 bar:15 color:orange from:1991 till:2001 text:Louisiana Tech University (1991-2001)
 bar:16 color:orange from:1991 till:end text:Arkansas State Universitymarker (1991-present)
 bar:17 color:orange from:1991 till:end text:University of Louisiana at Lafayette (1991-present)
 bar:18 color:orange from:1998 till:end text:Florida International Universitymarker (1998-present)
 bar:19 color:orange from:1999 till:end text:University of Denvermarker (1999-present)
 bar:20 color:orange from:2001 till:2005 text:New Mexico State Universitymarker (2001-2005)
 bar:21 color:orange from:2001 till:end text:Middle Tennessee State Universitymarker (2001-present)
 bar:22 color:orange from:2001 till:end text:University of North Texasmarker (2001-present)
 bar:23 color:orange from:2001 till:end text:University of Louisiana at Monroemarker (2001-present)
 bar:24 color:orange from:2001 till:2005 text:University of Idahomarker (football only, 2001-2005)
 bar:25 color:orange from:2003 shift:(-126,-3) till:2005 text:Utah State University (football only, 2003-2005)
 bar:26 color:orange from:2005 shift:(-170,-3) till:end text:Troy Universitymarker (2005-present)
 bar:27 color:orange from:2006 shift:(-190,-3) till:end text:Florida Atlantic Universitymarker (2006-present)

ScaleMajor = gridcolor:line unit:year increment:3 start:1976

TextData =
  pos:(175,30) # tabs:(0-center)
  text:"Sun Belt Conference Membership History"


Florida International joined the league for football, and ULM and Florida Atlantic joined the league as a member in all sports on July 1, 2005. Western Kentuckymarker joined the Sun Belt Conference for football in 2009 after its Board of Regents voted to upgrade the school's football program to Division I FBS. South Alabamamarker will begin fielding a football team in 2009, with the intention of moving up to full FBS status by 2013.

As of November 11, 2009, UNO has announced they are investigating a move from Division I to the NCAA's Division III, with a decision expected in early 2010.


The Sun Belt conference office has been headquartered in downtown New Orleansmarker since 2000, after moving from suburban Metairie, Louisianamarker where it had been based since 1991. Prior to moving to the “Big Easy” the league was based in Tampa, Floridamarker from 1977–1991. The original conference office was located in Charlotte, North Carolinamarker from 1976–77.


  • Vic Bubas (1976–1990)
  • Jim Lessig (1990–1991)
  • Craig Thompson (1991–1998)
  • Wright Waters (1999–present)

In addition to the four Sun Belt commissioners, three future league leaders served on the Sun Belt staff prior to becoming conference commissioners, including Doug Elgin (Missouri Valley), John Iamarino (Northeast, Southern) and Tom Burnett (Southland).

Current members

Institution Nickname Location Founded Affiliation Enrollment Football Member Endowment
University of Arkansas at Little Rockmarker Trojans Little Rock, Arkansasmarker
1927 Public 12,000 No $7.6 million
Arkansas State Universitymarker Red Wolves Jonesboro, Arkansasmarker
1909 Public 16,494 Yes $33.1 million
University of Denvermarker Pioneers Denver, Coloradomarker
1864 Private/Non-sectarian 9,846 No $300.4 million
Florida Atlantic Universitymarker Owls Boca Raton, Floridamarker
1964 Public 26,000 Yes $190 million
Florida International Universitymarker Golden Panthers Miami, Floridamarker
1965 Public 39,500 Yes $110 million
University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns Lafayette, Louisianamarker
1900 Public 18,079 Yes $93 million
University of Louisiana at Monroemarker Warhawks Monroe, Louisianamarker
1931 Public 8,140 Yes $20.6 million
Middle Tennessee State Universitymarker Blue Raiders Murfreesboro, Tennesseemarker
1911 Public 22,554 Yes $23.8 million
University of New Orleans Privateers New Orleans, Louisianamarker
1958 Public 11,300 No $15.5 million
University of North Texasmarker Mean Green Denton, Texasmarker
1890 Public 36,206 Yes $62.4 million
University of South Alabamamarker Jaguars Mobile, Alabamamarker
1963 Public 14,003 Yes (2013) $270 million
Troy Universitymarker Trojans Troy, Alabamamarker
1887 Public 27,148 Yes $27 million
Western Kentucky Universitymarker Hilltoppers Bowling Green, Kentuckymarker
1906 Public 18,391 Yes (2009) $144 million
Locations of current Sun Belt Conference full member institutions.

Conference facilities

School Football stadium Capacity Basketball arena Capacity
Arkansas Little-Rock Non-football school N/A Jack Stephens Centermarker 5,600
Arkansas State ASU Stadiummarker 33,410 Convocation Centermarker 10,925
Denver Non-football school N/A Magness Arenamarker 7,200
Florida Atlantic Lockhart Stadiummarker* 20,450 FAU Arenamarker 5,000
Florida International FIU Stadiummarker** 20,000 U.S.marker Century Bank Arenamarker 6,000
Louisiana-Lafayette Cajun Fieldmarker 31,000 Cajundomemarker 11,550
ULM Malone Stadiummarker 30,427 Fant-Ewing Coliseummarker 7,085
Middle Tennessee State Johnny "Red" Floyd Stadium 31,000 Murphy Centermarker 11,520
New Orleans Non-football school N/A UNO Lakefront Arenamarker 10,000
North Texas Fouts Fieldmarker 30,500 UNT Coliseummarker 10,040
South Alabama Ladd-Peebles Stadiummarker*** 40,646 Mitchell Centermarker 10,000
Troy Movie Gallery Stadiummarker 30,000 Trojan Arenamarker 4,000
Western Kentucky Houchens Industries - L.marker T.marker Smith Stadiummarker 22,000 E.marker A.marker Diddle Arenamarker 8,300

  • Arkansas-Little Rock normally plays its home games on campus, but occasionally plays at Alltel Arenamarker.
  • *At least one home game a year is played at [[LandShark Stadium]] in [[Miami Gardens, Florida|Miami Gardens]] (home of the NFL Miami Dolphins and NCAA Miami Hurricanes). FAU is constructing an on campus 30,000 seat stadium ([[FAU football stadium|FAU stadium]]) to open for their 2010 season. ***Florida International University's [[FIU Stadium]] is currently undergoing expansions for an increased [[seating capacity]] to 45,000. The expansion is to be done in two separate phases, phase one to be finished for the Fall 2008 season and phase two by Fall 2010. The school also used the [[Miami Orange Bowl]] as its home stadium for the 2007 season. ****South Alabama will begin a football team in 2009, with its first year of Sun Belt play in 2013.



Champions by year:

Season Champion Conference Record
2001 Middle Tennessee State 5-1
North Texas* 5-1
2002 North Texas 6-0
2003 North Texas 7-0
2004 North Texas 7-0
2005 Arkansas State** 5-2
Louisiana-Lafayette 5-2
ULM 5-2
2006 Middle Tennessee State 6-1
Troy*** 6-1
2007 Troy 6-1
Florida Atlantic**** 6-1
2008 Troy 6-1

* North Texas won the conference's automatic bowl bid because it won the head-to-head game against Middle Tennessee. Also, North Texas had a losing overall record in 2001 and was not technically bowl-eligible, but the NCAA granted the team an exemption because it had won the conference. This is similar to what is granted to a basketball or baseball team which has a losing overall record but wins its conference tournament.
** Arkansas State won the conference's automatic bowl bid through a three-way tiebreaker.
*** Troy won the conference's automatic bowl bid through a tiebreaker by virtue of its head-to-head victory against Middle Tennessee, and Middle Tennessee earned a bid to the Motor City Bowl in Detroit.
**** Florida Atlantic won the conference's automatic bowl bid through a tiebreaker by virtue of its head-to-head victory against Troy.

New Orleans Chancellor Ryan has put the UNO Privateers Football "club " team on the table to eventually gain varsity level (NCAA) status.

Bowl affiliates

New Orleans Bowl St. Petersburg Bowl Independence Bowl Bowl Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Sun Belt vs. C-USA
Sun Belt serves as an alternate for Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, C-USA, MAC and SEC.


Season Men's Regular Season Champion Men's Tournament Champion Women's Regular Season Champion Women's Tournament Champion
1977 UNC Charlotte UNC Charlotte No Regular Season No Tournament
1978 UNC Charlotte New Orleans No Regular Season No Tournament
1979 South Alabama Jacksonvillemarker No Regular Season No Tournament
1980 South Alabama VCUmarker No Regular Season No Tournament
1981 VCU VCU No Regular Season No Tournament
1982 UAB UAB No Regular Season No Tournament
1983 VCU UAB Old Dominionmarker Old Dominionmarker
1984 VCU UAB Old Dominionmarker Old Dominionmarker
1985 VCU VCU Old Dominionmarker Old Dominionmarker
1986 Old Dominionmarker Jacksonvillemarker Western Kentuckymarker Western Kentuckymarker
1987 Western Kentuckymarker UAB Old Dominionmarker Old Dominionmarker
1988 UNC Charlotte UNC Charlotte Old Dominionmarker Western Kentuckymarker
1989 South Alabama South Alabama Old Dominionmarker Western Kentuckymarker
1990 UAB South Floridamarker UAB Old Dominionmarker
1991 South Alabama South Alabama UAB Western Kentuckymarker
1992 Southwestern Louisiana Southwestern Louisiana Western Kentuckymarker Western Kentuckymarker
1993 New Orleans Western Kentuckymarker Western Kentuckymarker Western Kentuckymarker
1994 Western Kentuckymarker Southwestern Louisiana Louisiana Tech Louisiana Tech
1995 Western Kentuckymarker Western Kentuckymarker Louisiana Tech Western Kentuckymarker
1996 UALR New Orleans Louisiana Tech Louisiana Tech
1997 South Alabama South Alabama Louisiana Tech Louisiana Tech
1998 South Alabama South Alabama Louisiana Tech Louisiana Tech
1999 Louisiana Tech Arkansas State Louisiana Tech Louisiana Tech
2000 Louisiana-Lafayette Louisiana-Lafayette Louisiana Tech Louisiana Tech
2001 Western Kentuckymarker Western Kentuckymarker Louisiana Tech Louisiana Tech
2002 Western Kentuckymarker Western Kentuckymarker Florida International Florida International
2003 Western Kentuckymarker Western Kentuckymarker Western Kentuckymarker Western Kentuckymarker
2004 Louisiana-Lafayette Louisiana-Lafayette South Alabama Middle Tennesseemarker
2005 Denvermarker Louisiana-Lafayette Western Kentuckymarker Middle Tennesseemarker
2006 Western Kentuckymarker South Alabama Western Kentuckymarker Middle Tennesseemarker
2007 South Alabama North Texas Middle Tennesseemarker Middle Tennesseemarker
2008 South Alabama Western Kentuckymarker Western Kentuckymarker Western Kentuckymarker
2009 Western Kentuckymarker Western Kentuckymarker Middle Tennesseemarker Middle Tennessee

See also:


The Sun Belt Conference has sponsored an annual baseball tournament to determine the conference winner since 1978. South Alabama has (by far) won the most championships, at 11.

Other sports

Besides football, basketball, and baseball, the Sun Belt Conference sponsors intercollegiate competition in men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, women’s soccer, women’s softball, men's and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s indoor track and field, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field, and women’s volleyball. While the conference does not sponsor men's soccer, four schools do have teams, with Denvermarker competing in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, Florida Atlanticmarker in the Mid-American Conference, Florida Internationalmarker in Conference USA, and Western Kentuckymarker in the Missouri Valley Conference. Denvermarker, the only Sun Belt member school with a varsity ice hockey program, is also a member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.


Intraconference rivalries

Rivalry Sport Significant Game Trophy
Florida Atlantic - FIU All Shula Bowl (football) The Shula Award
UALR - Arkansas State All
Louisiana-Lafayette - ULMmarker All Battle on the Bayou (football)
Middle Tennessee - Troy Football Battle for the Palladium The Palladium
Middle Tennesseemarker - Western Kentuckymarker All

Interconference rivalries

Rivalry Sport Significant Game Trophy
Eastern Kentuckymarker - Western Kentuckymarker Football Battle of the Bluegrass
FIU - University of Miamimarker All
Arkansas State - University of Memphismarker All Paint Bucket Bowl (football)
New Orleans - Tulane Basketball, Baseball First NBC Cup (Baseball)
North Texas - SMU Football Safeway Bowl

Former Members

Affiliate Members

Missouri State, Southern Illinois, University of Evansville, Eastern Michigan University, Ball State Universitymarker, the University at Buffalo and Miami University began competing in the Mid-American Conference in men's swimming and diving, in 2008 up to 2015.

See also

External links

Notes and references

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