Benson will meet with GSU on Monday about Sun Belt membership

Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson confirmed on Friday he will meet with Georgia State President Mark Becker and athletic director Cheryl Levick on Monday in Atlanta to discuss the possibility of membership in his conference.

Timing may be critical because the Colonial Athletic Association, Georgia State’s home since 2005, is expected to vote on Tuesday to increase its exit fees from $250,000 to $1 million.

Should Georgia State accept an invitation, it will likely have to forfeit any revenue-sharing agreements with the CAA for the upcoming season. That could mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars. It may also have to forfeit the chance to participate in any of the conference’s tournaments in 2012-13.

There also will be an entry fee to the Sun Belt, which Benson said is in the process of being changed.

Georgia State’s athletic department has been exploring a move for the past few months. Levick commissioned a report last year that studied the ramifications of moving up to FBS.

The report concluded that “GSU is well-positioned to make a transition to FBS” and “that the Sun Belt would be the best fit.” A draft of the report, along with the contract between Georgia State and the authors, Atlanta-based Collegiate Consulting, was obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an Open Records Request. The report cost $20,000.

Georgia State was well-positioned to move to the Sun Belt from a budgetary standpoint, according to the feasibility study. The athletic department’s projected $22.9 million in revenues in 2011-12 is 44 percent more than the average Sun Belt member, according to the report. However, the difference in those revenues can be traced to student fees: Georgia State receives more than $16.5 million compared with $5.6 million for an average Sun Belt school. Conversely, the average Sun Belt school received $1.5 million in game guarantees to GSU’s $440,500.

Discussions have been in the works since February, after Benson went on the Barnhart and Durham show on 790AM and said that Georgia State wants to play football on the FBS level. He later said he didn’t have his facts straight about the Panthers. He called Levick to apologize, and that conversation drifted toward his plans for the Sun Belt and the future of FCS football.

Benson and Levick have known each other for a long time, going back to when Levick was senior associate athletic director at Stanford (1988-2000) and Benson commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference.

The Sun Belt currently has 10 members. Benson said the existing members are a great foundation, but he would like to strengthen the conference’s geographic footprint and have enough schools to have divisional play in all sports. Traditionally, that has meant at least 12 members.

– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu

112 comments Add your comment

GSU is in Atlanta

April 6th, 2012
2:54 pm

Timing is everything

ajg-marietta

April 6th, 2012
2:55 pm

Hi Doug, Don’t the Sun Belt schools receive more in game guarantees simply because they are FBS and can get a bigger share for their payday games?

Stateside

April 6th, 2012
2:59 pm

So we get a weekend, and then this on Monday? Looking forward to it!

Doug Roberson

April 6th, 2012
3:15 pm

Yes, Marietta, but that’s the point.

Georgia Southern Fan

April 6th, 2012
3:23 pm

Oh God, Nooooooooooooooo! Somebody, anybody, stop this from happening.

Jackson

April 6th, 2012
3:55 pm

Good news is on the way!

Ben M

April 6th, 2012
3:57 pm

Doug, Has anyone spoken to coach Ron Hunter about his opinion on all this? I’m a football and basketball season ticket holder and I’m all for the move to FBS, but a year after taking a job in a very good basketball conference, coach Hunter’s school is likely switching to a very mediocre (at best) basketball conference and will not be able to compete in the CAA tournament next year. Like I said, I’m all for the move, just don’t want coach Hunter (or incoming son RJ) to feel misled or be unhappy. Thoughts anyone?

Jackson

April 6th, 2012
4:14 pm

The CAA is a Virginia centric league. This makes sense economically and geographically.

Doug Roberson

April 6th, 2012
4:24 pm

Not yet. I believe coach Hunter had surgery on his hip today. I hope to talk to him next week. With the APR issues that some of the CAA schools are dealing with, which may result in two teams not being able to play in the CAA tournament next year, they may have to let GSU play.

Ben M

April 6th, 2012
4:28 pm

Thanks a lot Doug, look forward to hearing CRH’s thoughts.

Alec Baldwin

April 6th, 2012
4:35 pm

Whatever, that place is a ticking time bomb, everyone is jumping ship.

Panther

April 6th, 2012
4:37 pm

Lol. Imagine if we won the CAA tournament the last year in the CAA.

Panther

April 6th, 2012
4:41 pm

@Ben M;
I would imagine Ron Hunter knows the situation and OK’d it before this invite was planned. He has openly discussed how big of a problem it is being in the CAA where you have to fly to conference games and take weeks out of school. He said it was part of the reason his kids were exhausted. He also said that he was against the CAA tournament being held in Richmond. Point being, I think Hunter wants out as much as the rest of us.

GaSouthern'96

April 6th, 2012
4:48 pm

The Georgia Southern administration is pathetic. Almost as pathetic as the fans. I am embarassed to be a GA Southern alumnus these days. Stupid Ga Southern fans actually have deluded themselves into believing that there is a secret plan to move up in the works. They believe this,despite the fact that the athletic director gave a recent interview in whch he made it abundantly clear that we have no ambitions whatsoever to move up at all.
The announcements by Ga State and Appalachian State to move up, have sent the GA Southern fanbase into an unprecedented level of absolute denial. It s sad to see a once proud fanbase be diminished to the level of pathetic excuse-making as to why we can’t move up. The program and the fans have taken on the personality of athletic director Sam Baker. Go read gsufans.com. When discussing these move ups, our fans sound like a bunch of scared losers. It is sad to see.

Ben M

April 6th, 2012
4:50 pm

Panther, I think you’re probably right, CRH’s dissatisfaction with some aspects of the league are well documented (and well-founded.)

Sluggo

April 6th, 2012
4:58 pm

I seriously doubt Yeager will allow us to participate in any post season play. It doesn’t matter as long as we’re out of the VAA for good.

GSUtimes2

April 6th, 2012
5:03 pm

I officially hate the CAA. I hope our leaving is the beginning of it’s slow and painful death. What a bunch of whiners.

GSUtimes2

April 6th, 2012
5:05 pm

*its not it’s.

Ben M

April 6th, 2012
5:15 pm

While we’re correcting *is not are

Panther Princess

April 6th, 2012
5:24 pm

Bye bye VAA!

It'd be nice

April 6th, 2012
5:36 pm

I’d like to see both Georgia Southern and Georgia State move up together but I don’t see that happening. Georgia Southern appears to be left behind. Same with Appalachian State. My guess is that there will be three places left in the Sun Belt (after the departure of FIU and North Texas) and those places will be taken by UTSA, Louisiana Tech, and Texas State.

Well played Georgia State. Well played.

GaSouthern'96

April 6th, 2012
6:02 pm

App State isn’t left behind. The Sunbelt is likely to be raided in the next two months, as both the WAC and C-USA are in need of replacement teams. App is likely waiting to see if C-USA will give them an invitation. If they don’t get the invite from C-USA, then they will likely end up in the Sunbelt with Ga State. Both the WAC and C-USA have said that they plan to fill out their membershp by June. App has positioned itself nicely to move up, and it is definitely happening. They have been proactive, and readied themselves for the opportunity even moreso than Ga State has.
Ga Southern on the other hand is defntely getting left behind. Athletic director Sam Baker has single-handley changed the culture around the program in the past 15+ years. Go read gsufans.com if you doubt me. On this FBS issue, that board is loaded up with excuse makers as to why Ga Southern is somehow unable to pull off what lesser schools like App State and Ga State have done. The fans now just parrot the constant excuses that the A.D. makes. They have been convinced and basically brainwashed by Sam Baker that Ga Southern is somehow different from these other former rival schools that have moved up during his tenure; a list which includes Marshall, Troy,MTSU, and now App State and Ga State.
They’ve actually commented on my comments here as somehow making Ga Southern “look bad”. All I have done is stated the truth about the pathetic situation that Ga Southern finds itself in right now. If those rubes on gsufans.com want somebody to blame for making Southern look bad, then they need to look at Sam Baker, and at themselves inthe mirror for buying the lame excuses that Baker has sold them for years.
Ever since Ga State started their program, Southern fans have done nothing but belittle the school. How foolish do those comments make us look now that Ga State has joined the group of schools that have passed Ga Southern by?
It all makes me sick, quite frankly. Ga Southern is a gold mine of untapped potential. It’s a shame the fanbase, which used to have such a great attitude, has been essentialy castrated by Sam Baker and his croney circle of boosters.

SouthernFan

April 6th, 2012
6:13 pm

GataErk, you can stop now. Thanks.

GaSouthern'96

April 6th, 2012
6:35 pm

I’m not GATA ERK. I am the original O.G. They call me Opie.
Ga Southern fans should be ashamed and humiliated that lesser schools like Ga State and App state can so easily pass us by. Don’t try to silence me just because you can’t handle the truth about our situaton.
Ga State and App state have been able to raise more money than Ga Southern for one simple reason. It has nothing to do with rural populations, or being a former teacher’s college, or even apathy.
The singular reason why Ga State and App State have outperformed Ga Southern in raising money is because Ga State and App’s administrations have both been very vocal about their intentions to move up. App and State both created a buzz around the programs by being very open and bold witth their goals. When people gave money to Appalachian or Ga State, they knew they were giving money for an expressed and specific purpose. There was no cryptic safety lines fed to the fans like “we are positioning ourselves to compete at the highest level we can”. At App and at State it was “we are raising money to move up to FBS. Period.” Bold, clear, concise, and most of all, effective. .
Ga Southern on the other hand has left its fans to speculation, conjecture, and hope that the new president is secretly formulating a plan. In the exact opposite approach that Ga state and App state have used to generate excitement in fund raising about new challenges, Ga Southern’s A.D. has been publicly quoted as recently as February diminishing even the idea of moving up.
Do GA Southern fans not think that negative public attitude by the Athletic Director has put a damper on fund rasing? How do you people in Statesboro not see that?!
I would love it if the Ga Southern fanbase was capable of doing some critical thinking, but apparently they are not. They/we just accept as gospel any excuse that the administration feeds us.
If Ga southern fans would just simply pay attention to how other schools operate on these matters, they would quickly see that our athletic administrators are clearly in over their heads at this level. They would see that Ga Southern’s leaders take the exact opposite approach to leadershp that all other successful division I A.D.’s take to grow the program.
Wake up Ga Southern. You haven’t even scratched the surface of your potential, and it’s high time Sam Baker was shown the door.

Panther

April 6th, 2012
6:40 pm

I seriously doubt App will get a look from CUSA. Alliance or not, CUSA is too interested in TV contracts for App to join, and they have mentioned that they aren’t looking for FCS move-ups. If they have a shot at the Sun Belt but won’t commit to that because of CUSA, then they are misguided and will probably lose out. Personally, I’m not convinced that they have a shot at the Sun Belt simply because they offer nothing for the TV contract, but I would be more than happy for them to move up with us.

Panther

April 6th, 2012
6:48 pm

@SouthernFan

I see there is no fighting spirit left in you. I’m not going to rub this into you and your friends faces. We told you from the beginning what we were doing and where we were going, I don’t know what you expected to happen. With all of your hyperbole about us being “ghetto state” and whatnot, it turns out it wasn’t based on any facts or anything else, just your disdain for us because we had persued football (something you consider yourself experts at) and we were passionate enough about it to push for what we wanted. And yes, despite our record and our age, we have surpassed you. But as it happens, I would love to see you move up, and maybe this conversation between us can open once more, but right now, it’s over. You are no longer even at the same level as us.

GaSouthern'96

April 6th, 2012
6:51 pm

A largeTv market is only one part of the equation,panther. It just so happens that it is about 95% of the reason why the Sunbelt is interested at all in Ga State. Other schools have other things to offer to prospective conference. The TV markets of Troy Alabama and Murphreesboro, TN for example are not prime targets.
As I said, C-USA and the WAC are about to raid the Sunbelt for membership before June. At that time, Sunbelt will have open spots. App state would cleary be a nice addition competitively to the Sunbelt. There are ony so many big markets out there that fit the Sunbelt footprint, and what App lacks in that categorey, they make up for with facilities and competitiveness.
Watch and learn.

GaSouthern'96

April 6th, 2012
6:56 pm

Panther, before you get too bg for your britches remember one thing. On the field, Ga Southern would rip through Ga State, like Sherman through Atlanta. You have indirecty benefited from our inept leadership. Congratulations.

Panther

April 6th, 2012
6:59 pm

I doubt that the WAC is about to raid anyone. I’m assuming you mean the MWC. But the Sun Belt also could pick up some of those WAC schools if CUSA raids them (which yes, I think they do, but only for a couple). And as far as TV markets go, yes they are only a single part of the equation, but it happens to be the driving force of this entire conference realignment. So again, I honestly don’t believe one bit that App has a shot at CUSA. Do they have a shot at the Sun Belt? I honestly think there are other schools above them, though I do think if things go the way App wants, there is a possibility. But I suppose we shall see.

Panther

April 6th, 2012
7:03 pm

@GaSouthern’96

You know what, I don’t deny it. But you know what else? It doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference. Not an ounce. Give us some time at FBS and see what happens. This stupid debate over “who the real GSU is” will be out of the window because whether it’s the Sun Belt, the SEC, or anywhere in between, FBS is a much more national level than FCS. And give us a while to pick up recruits and get accustomed to being FBS and we’ll see where we are competition wise. But at the end of the day, all of this is moot because southern is still a level below us, and we will never have to play you. And if we did, it would be at our stadium.

GSU4Life

April 6th, 2012
8:20 pm

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

Joe

April 6th, 2012
8:27 pm

Name the schools that are supposedly ahead of App state to get into the sunbelt. Nobody wants to be the sunbelt except transitional FCS schools. It’s the only entry level league.
I give your administration credit for capitalizing on the single asset that Ga state has to offer to a conference. What you stupidly fail to realize is that the sunbelt has a competition problem, not a tv market problem. Tv markets are only part of the equation in this reshuffling at the highest levels. The sunbelt is looking to raise its image as a competitive league, in addition to adding the atlanta market. App state would obviously help with that.
You’ve passed Ga southern by for the time being. If we ever get our act together and fire our athletic director, then we will blow your doors off. Simple as that. Sam Baker should be on the Ga state payroll because he is the sole reason why Ga Southern finds itself where it is now. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Go Troy Trojans

April 6th, 2012
8:43 pm

GA State would be a great fit for the Sun Belt. It will enhance the Sun Belt conference and enhance the GA State football program.

Go Troy Trojans

April 6th, 2012
8:46 pm

Let me also add that Georgia State was one of the founding members of the Sun Belt Conference. So I guess I should say. It would be great for GA to return to the Sun Belt.

panther

April 6th, 2012
9:05 pm

@joe

I’m sorry i “stupidly” disagree with you. But you haven’t convinced me that i’m wrong. There are basically all the WAC teams that are being displaced by a conference which by all accounts appears to be dying. On that side of things, there is Texas State and UTSA who were in the process of moving up. There is also Louisiana Tech. Any of these schools that don’t get a Conference USA invite will be watching out for the Sun Belt. On this side of things, Charlotte made the mistake of telling everyone that they wanted to move to FBS from the get go preventing them from finding an FCS conference, and they would be a possibility as well. And we are filling one of the spaces. As i said, i’m not saying App doesn’t have a chance, but i would say it is far from certain for them.

Panther Pride

April 6th, 2012
9:09 pm

Joe I agree and disagree. The Sun Belt is an entry level conference but in order to move up to bigger FBS conferences you have to start somewhere. But insofar as SBC adding teams for pure competition purposes, I’m not so sure about that.

Money has driven all of the realignment and when you go with big market schools then obviously you’ll be able to tap into those markets because your potential viewership is much larger. Potential and actual viewership gives conferences a lil leverage when it comes to negotiating tv contracts. The vast majority of the income that pro/college sports receive comes from tv contracts and ratings, not fan attendance to games.

Another big factor is school enrollment. Georgia State is a large school and probably will be the largest school in the state (enrollment-wise) within the next 4yrs because UGA has decided to stop increasing its enrollment. The reason why enrollment is huge is because the larger your enrollment then the larger potential customer base you will have in which will have a vested interest in the school/product. Georgia State has been traditionally known as a commuter school but that has been changing tremendously since the addition of football. The retention rate of Georgia State has increased along with school enthusiasm, campus spirit and general pride in being from Georgia State. This is why South Florida/UCF (two programs in cities) were able to adapt quickly and change their cultures. Both schools were ‘commuter’ schools but now look at them.

Also, Georgia Southern hasn’t had any competition when it comes to football at the FCS level in the state of Georgia for the past 30yrs. There have been no other programs until G-State and now Kennessaw State is getting a team. I doubt if the school moved up to FBS it would instantly become a dominating program. Once Georgia State gets established (remember it is still a football program only 2 seasons old) then I actually doubt Georgia Southern will be able to blow the doors off G-State at anytime. Think about if you are a young high school athlete choosing a school/environment to attend. Would a football player rather attend a school in Atlanta the largest city in the South with a lot to do outside of school or attend a school in Statesboro? I’m sorry but if it was me I’m picking Atlanta hands down and especially when so much of the football talent comes from the Atlanta area.

These kids don’t care about the 6 natl titles in FCS they want to be at a place where they will be seen and can still have some fun outside of school.

Also, I read on an App State fan website that UNC-Charlotte is actually being looked at over App State right now…obviously the blogger was pissed but like I said, it’s about the market not the history.

panther

April 6th, 2012
9:12 pm

And regarding your football. Two things;
First, you’re going to have the same problem moving up as App State will have (maybe that’s why you’re so defensive of them). The difference is, right now there is a conference realignment going on. In the future when you’re ready to move up (if that time ever comes) you’ll have to find a conference that is actually looking for teams. You can’t assume that they will just be begging for you. App State has been ready for a while now and thus far nothing has came of it.
Second thing is, yeah, you’re doing well in football right now. You got to the playoffs last year. Good job. We, on the other hand, are about to begin our third season ever. Do you think we’re at our best right now? I would imagine we are going to continue improving, especially when we move to FBS. And do you think you can stay at this level indefinitely? Because you haven’t always been this good, remember that…

Pennsylvania CAA fan

April 6th, 2012
9:20 pm

Good news for GSU… at least you’ll probably have the smartest student atheletes in the Sunbelt. What a bunch of third rate schools.

panther

April 6th, 2012
9:25 pm

I’ll take that as a compliment:)

TheEagleWay

April 6th, 2012
9:36 pm

Good luck Panthers. I apologize for the Southern fans that loose heart. Hope to meet on the field one day.

ValleyBoy

April 6th, 2012
9:41 pm

Eaglewraith and I have scoured the interwebs for days since this news first broke in hopes to debunk all this Georgia State to FBS talk. I was finally able to locate a podcast on North Texas’ message board of their AD mentioning that a “soft vote” took place. Please, tell me that this is a “soft” visit. I just cannot stomach this!

Notice how we NEVER comment when the move is plausible. I just have to live with the fact that we will be playing PEE WEE football utilizing our TECHMO BOWL offense because we simply cannot recruit folks down here to run a normal offense. I AM SO BITTER AND SO ASHAMED OF ALL THE NOISE I’VE TALKED ABOUT GSU AND NOW I’M EATING CROW.

I don’t even read their message board anymore. I just want to wake up in the year 2006 again! They are progressing and we are falling off the map.

What! Kennesaw State is starting a football program too. OHHHHHH NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

Sam Baker, PLEASEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!

RidgeRunner

April 6th, 2012
9:41 pm

Lets break until the morning they you guys can continue slinging the smelly stuff

GSU alum in MS

April 6th, 2012
9:43 pm

While the Sun belt isn’t the SEC, it’s still in the FBS. In only two short seasons it’s been truly remarkable to see what the athletic department has accomplished with football at GSU. I appreciate all the hard work by all those involved.

Go Panthers!!

April 6th, 2012
9:58 pm

Good riddance CAA.

BTW, I expect the Sun Belt to take a step backwards intially with this conference shuffle, which everyone knows is not done.

But I suspect that Benson is smart in cherry picking good TV markets. Eventually that will lead to a better TV contract, and thus money will plug back into building the programs.

I suspect in five years, the SunBelt will be much different than everyone thinks of it today.

blazerdawg

April 6th, 2012
10:02 pm

APR problems in the CAA? Nooooo!

Get’em Panthers! Good luck in the Sun Belt – a much better fit – if GA Southern ultimately joined, it would be perfect.

Now to get the University of South Georgia (Valdosta State) into the Big South or Southern Conference with Kennesaw State, then we would be all set.

ValleyBoy

April 6th, 2012
10:03 pm

I’ve listened to this hour long interview maybe 185 times and the words are sticking in my head. North Texas’ AD said, and I quote, “it was just basically a soft, it was an okay from the Presidents to have conversations with Georgia State and to possibly offer them an invitation if they were open to that.”

Now, I’m not the smartest dude in Eagle land, but does that mean what I think it means????? Now, I was trying to spin this thing emphasizing the “soft” comment, but MAN, he seems to confirm that you guys are gone saying, “if they were open to that.” Are you guys open to that? It’s okay if you’re not. I promise to say anything else.

You know what, I’m going to listen to it again. Maybe the words will change…or better yet, maybe they will disappear altogether.

Jee S. You

April 6th, 2012
10:08 pm

ValleyBoy, you got a link for that interview? I’m sure a few here would like to give it a once-over.

Sun Belt

April 6th, 2012
10:12 pm

Valley and GA Southern 96 – keep the pressure on your admin. We need you also. Love Savannah!

Rivalries between State, Southern, Fl Atlantic, and MTSU would be epic.

[...] Benson will meet with GSU on Monday about Sun Belt membershipAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Timing may be critical because the Colonial Athletic Association, Georgia State’s home since 2005, is expected to vote on Tuesday to increase its exit fees from $250000 to $1 million. Should Georgia State accept an invitation, it will likely have to …and more » [...]

Third Rate CAA

April 6th, 2012
10:15 pm

North Texas > James Madison

FAU > George Mason

Georgia State > VCU

Bankrupcy > Drexel

Gainesville State > Wilmington

Univ of Phoenix > ODU Online