Becker, Levick react to Sun Belt changes

Georgia State’s leaders say they have some concerns about the Sun Belt, which recently lost two schools to a rival conference, but seem confident that the conference will emerge at least as good as it was when they joined just a few months ago.

“We are concerned anytime teams leave the conference and we have significant change,” Georgia State president Mark Becker said. “We will be working with the commissioner (Karl Benson) to ensure the Sun Belt is well-positioned as a competitive conference.”

Benson said he plans on replacing Middle Tennessee State and Florida Atlantic, which recently resigned from the Sun Belt and will join Conference USA in 2014. But Benson declined to offer any specifics because he said he has yet to begin the process. He said it may start as early as Friday.

“I have faith in commissioner Benson,” Georgia State athletic director Cheryl Levick said. “We will figure out the right plan. I still feel that we are in the right conference. I still feel that we can be very successful in football and I still feel that we can be very successful in the Sun Belt.”

Georgia State announced in April that it was joining the Sun Belt as a full member on July 1, 2013. The decision was made for many reasons, including the desire to play football on the FBS level and to create more rivals created by proximity, something it didn’t have in the Colonial Athletic Association, whose closest team was seven hours away from Atlanta.

Florida Atlantic, which is farther away from Atlanta than the CAA’s Virginia-based teams, likely wouldn’t haven’t been a rival. Middle Tennessee State, located less than four hours away near Nashville, could have been.

There have been reports of New Mexico State and Idaho joining the Sun Belt. Their background as FBS schools may improve the conference’s credibility in football, which was strengthened this year by four teams making bowl games. One of those teams, Arkansas State, just lost its head coach to Auburn.

But their potential inclusion wouldn’t help Georgia State’s desire to have more regional rivals. Moscow, Idaho is 2,400 miles from Atlanta and Las Cruces, N.M. is almost 1,500. Their fans likely wouldn’t travel to the Georgia Dome.

There is at least one partial solution, though, and Georgia State could benefit.

Georgia Southern, which plays football on the FCS level in the Southern Conference, has expressed an interest in talking to the Sun Belt and playing football on the FBS level. The Board of Regents recently approved two new student fees to assist in that move. One fee increase of $25 would fund an expansion to Paulson Stadium. The other fee, a $15 redirection of an existing $154 fee, would go toward constructing a football operations center.

The Eagles wouldn’t bring a large media market (the closest major city, Savannah, is No. 92 in Nielsen’s estimates), but they would bring a passionate fan base that would most likely increase Georgia State’s attendance whenever they would play at the Georgia Dome. The addition would create an instant rivalry for Georgia State and may improve the interest in Atlanta in all sports for both universities.

Some Eagles fans are ready to make the move.

“It is going to happen and I do think it is good for the program because it represents stepping up to a higher level, one in which I am confident we can be competitive,” Bill Bomar (Class of 1989) said. “Erk (Russell) preached that we should always compete at the highest level in which we can be successful.”

There are other schools that could be added that would be competitive in football and create rivalries for Georgia State: Appalachian State (5 1/2 hours away from Atlanta) and Jacksonville State (2 hours), for example, have also been speculatively linked to the Sun Belt. Their proximity would also reduce travel costs for all of Georgia State’s sports. Georgia State projected it would save $150,000 a year in travel costs competing in the Sun Belt compared to the CAA. That savings would likely be wiped out if Idaho and New Mexico State are added, unless the conference keeps expanding and divisions are established.

Becker declined to speculate on what might happen within the Sun Belt, though he said it would be natural to anticipate change.

Levick declined to say if she would prefer a geographic rival like Georgia Southern, which may help create more interest in the programs, or a team from a larger media market, which may help the conference eventually land a more lucrative TV contract. She said there are many factors in play, including revenue sharing.

“I want to look at the options and weigh what’s best for Georgia State and what’s best for the conference,” she said.

Other headlines

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Trent Miles has a plan for Georgia State

Three questions with Trent Miles

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

72 comments Add your comment

hammer22

December 5th, 2012
3:13 pm

typical responses

@ Say What?

December 5th, 2012
3:13 pm

Thanks for getting comments on realignment Doug! Every other Sun Belt school’s leadership issued public statements.

So, if ...

December 5th, 2012
3:19 pm

…GSU joins the Sun Belt, and GSU is already a member, which GSU will be the “real” GSU?

Dana F. Blankenhorn

December 5th, 2012
3:22 pm

There is room for both GSUs in Conference USA. Really, they and the Sun Belt ought to merge. There was talk of merging CUSA and the Mountain West but that fell through. This would make a lot more sense. Many of the new CUSA schools (we got raided by the Big East) are quite compatible with Georgia State, especially MTSU.

I went to Rice and it would be fun to go to a conference game in the Dome. Since my son goes to Georgia State.

GSU to the Big East

December 5th, 2012
3:28 pm

Conferences are poaching teams for market presence lately (Houston, Temple, and Tulane), and the Big East would have a recruiting gold mine in Atlanta. Grabbing the Panthers would really fill in the Big East’s footprint. Plus, we’d have road games in real cities.

Brian

December 5th, 2012
3:58 pm

Crossing my fingers GA Southern gets an invite soon. I agree that this move would be great for both schools. Go Eagles!!!

RidgeRunner

December 5th, 2012
4:13 pm

More important than $150,000 travel savings is the reduced wear and tear on players and staff.

GStateBen

December 5th, 2012
4:16 pm

Nu uh. Thats not what I heard. Like, thats just stuff made up to confuse folks. Like, its not even a real TV market. Stupid Statesboro.

[asks mom for another corndog]

Im going to check my sources pronto.

[surfs Web]

Not Ga Southern.

December 5th, 2012
4:20 pm

I originally did not want Southern in the Sunbelt, but I have changed my mind. App State and Southern both would immediately strengthen the competition in the Conference. Only conditions is the finances. I don’t want a 20 year plan for Southern’s stadium to move from 12,000 seats to 30,000. The stadium renovation must be completed before they get an invite. Same goes with all other financial requirements. If you want to play in the Belt then you better meet the same facilities and financial requirements that Ga State and all the other schools had to meet. This Double standard crap has got to stop. To summarize welcome to the Belt you better bring your check book.

AngryPanther

December 5th, 2012
4:31 pm

If GASO joins SunBelt, GSU will go Big East or elsewhere. Can’t stand the GASO crowd.

5150 UOAD

December 5th, 2012
4:59 pm

I just BiOtched to 790thefan that they need to talk UP GaState(i’m All Georgia Tech) and that can help recruiting. PEOPLE call the Local RADIO stations and let them know GaState MATTERS. Their last poll showed GaState is just above Soccer on the meter. Start calling 680-790-92.9 and Ask questions and show you care about GaState football or you will be NOTHING in the ATL market.

Mike S

December 5th, 2012
5:06 pm

Angry Panther- so that’s how it works! You don’t like a fellow conference member, so you just call another conference and say “We want to come there”. Why don’t you give the Big East a call right now and see what they say. Let’s hope everybody in the Big East likes Ga State or else they will all move somewhere else…like the SEC or Big10. I never knew it was so easy!

Mike S

December 5th, 2012
5:16 pm

5150 UOAD- And now I’m learning something else new….if you want your program to be relevant, what you need to do is flood the local sportstalk radio shows with calls and ask questions. So that will do it? It doesn’t have anything to do with the product on the field/court/ etc.? It doesn’t have anything with leadership, institutional marketing, or sports success? Who knew it was just calls to radio stations that will make you relevant. Thanks for sharing!

(You guys crack me up! Thanks for the free laughs!)

DGAD

December 5th, 2012
5:17 pm

Just wondering if everyone is aware how poorly the Sunbelt is seen as a conference. Adding App State and Georgia Southern would do nothing but improve it. You should do all you can to help them.

Paddy

December 5th, 2012
5:18 pm

Angry Panther……….you are a voice in the wilderness!

Paddy

December 5th, 2012
5:24 pm

5150……..Levick tied he football philosophy to the media and it backfired on her. Don’t believe she will try that ill-fate, always wrong , approach any longer.A hard charging sales staff and boots on the pavement is her salvation now!

GStateBen

December 5th, 2012
5:35 pm

[wipes cheetos fingers on moms couch]

Yup. You’ll see. If georgia smuthern steps one foot into this conference we are gone. Me thinks everybody is in for a #stateofshock when they hear what we have up our sleeves. And, like not our actual sleeves. That last thingie was for those stupid stupids from Statesboro.

[Googles 'contact+info+SEC+office']

[lets ring once]

[freaks out at thought of human interaction]

[hangs up]

[Googles 'market size+Atlanta']

Brian

December 5th, 2012
5:38 pm

@Doug Roberson – Will the AJC start covering GA Southern sports (at least football) if they join Sun Belt? Either way I’d like to see more love from the AJC… we’re in the quarterfinals of the playoffs for crying out loud!

Sid Miser

December 5th, 2012
5:43 pm

A suggestion to “unconfuse” the GSU/GSU mess. Has anyone thought of a name change for Georgia Southern? How about the University of Southern Georgia? Southern Mississippi (USM) not too long ago was named Mississippi Southern. How does USG sound? Just saying.

RidgeRunner

December 5th, 2012
5:50 pm

Answer So, If. Georgia State, the first GSU, will be THE GSU. Since Georgia Southern even says to use GS, and not GSU, this will be in contention until one or the other changes their name. In the future I see our games being the Battle For GSU, the winner having bragging rights until the next meeting.

5150 UOAD

December 5th, 2012
6:02 pm

I just BiOtched to 790thefan that they need to talk UP GaState(i’m All Georgia Tech) and that can help recruiting. PEOPLE call the Local RADIO stations and let them know GaState MATTERS. Their last poll showed GaState is just above Soccer on the meter. Start calling 680-790-92.9 and Ask questions and show you care about GaState football or you will be NOTHING in the ATL market.

DanS

December 5th, 2012
6:26 pm

Why do the State fans think they have any pull in the Sun Belt or any other conference with their struggling program? You have to crawl before you walk.

5150 UOAD

December 5th, 2012
6:30 pm

IF your TEAM isn’t in the MEDIA nobody knows you exist……………..

DanS

December 5th, 2012
6:30 pm

@ Sid Miser – How about we rename Georgia State, I don’t know, let’s say ‘Georgia Evening College’?That has a nice ring to it.

Who cares if one school, or the other, or both uses GSU? It makes no difference.

Ranger1

December 5th, 2012
6:34 pm

Adding Georgia Southern is a no brainer the attendance is already there, the increased fees and other projected income revenue from a move up puts Georgia Southern on par with Sun Belt teams financially. Georgia Southern is the most successful team in the history of the FCS I dont see how all of sudden we will stop being a competitive program in the Sun Belt especially with 20+ more scholarships and access to better recruits. The stadium IS going to be expanded starting at the end of this year so will the new football center. The stadium will be on par with typical Sun Belt stadiums. Also our SAT scores for incoming freshman I believe are higher than Georgia States so stop with the academic entrance nonsense. Obviously at the post secondary level Georgia Southern has a ways to go but undergrad we get the same quality of student. Georgia Southern joining gives Georgia State and automatic real rival game, generating real interest and fan growth. Travel costs for both schools will be insignificant as well. No doubt this would be the most attended game for every year and a good money maker. Georgia Southern is in the Sav media market which is obviously not huge but is growing as it jumped four spots in one year this will continue as the region is seeing significant continuing growth. If both fan bases can turn off the lame fanatic part of their brains and stop with the dumb played out insults it is clear there is a ton of upside for both schools if Georgia Southern joins.

Paddy

December 5th, 2012
6:43 pm

5150………It looks like you have not been keeping up w/ her philosophy. Of course you must be in the press. The AJC assigned a beat writer didn’t they! Come on now, your better than that! It has nothing to do w/ the day to day coverage the team got from Doug. I thought he did a great job under difficult conditions.

Paddy

December 5th, 2012
6:45 pm

Brian…….the answer to your question is no. The AJC will not do any more for Ga Southern than they have in the past years. The paper is not sold in that part of the state. No revenue, no coverage!

Mike S

December 5th, 2012
6:49 pm

Ranger 1- you have NO place on an AJC sports blog with your well thought out, factual based analysis of the situation. Are you trying to ruin it for the rest of us?
Of course, all of the above is sarcasm. Thanks for your sane, rational input.

5150 UOAD

December 5th, 2012
7:00 pm

@Paddy………….. the BEAT writer from the AJC is a Soccer lover. He cares more about European soccer than ANYTHING GaState.

Doug did TECH for a second and he didn’t care to be a good writer for TECH fans. He is doing the Minimum on this blog too.

RADIO is where GaState has to make a Footprint. Are you so dumb not to know the Conference re-alignment is all about TV and Media markets. If you can’t get pn TV then you have to be on the RADIO or in the Print.

Bi Stunna

December 5th, 2012
7:34 pm

@ the GStateBen parody dude… If you want ad hominem attacks to be effective it helps if they’re accurate. I’m pretty sure that guy is married with kids or something… although I guess he could still visit his mom for some free cheetos and corn dogs if he felt like it.

Panama

December 5th, 2012
7:40 pm

We need to engage engines and warp ourselves out of this conference. Make is so Sulu!

LexWasp

December 5th, 2012
7:41 pm

Once we get done with our transition next year, being an independent might be preferable as we grow the program. Scheduling would be more difficult, but I bet we would be able to grow a lot quicker by playing more games with other conferences (and would probably procure a better invite quicker).

Panher278

December 5th, 2012
7:42 pm

We haveto get out of the Sun Belt ASAP. The bowl tie ins are terrible and he conference is awful. CUSA has no team in Georgia, so I bet we could get an invite if we begged.

georgiastate1913

December 5th, 2012
8:09 pm

How ’bout we give “GSU” to Georgia Southern so they can shut up, and we change our name to the “University of Atlanta”, which seems more marketable anyways. On another note, I am not opposed to GS, and App State coming, and Jax State would also be a good addition. Jax State has sweet football facilities and they are an easy away game to travel to. It just seems natural. On the other hand, not to be arrogant, but I believe Georgia State will end up in another conference anyways, so none of this conversation matters.

GSU freshman

December 5th, 2012
8:14 pm

Please bring GSU Eagle in. I have friends attending Georgia Southern.

What?

December 5th, 2012
8:30 pm

Why would any other conference pick us up? We need to build the program.

I thought everyone was excited to join an FBS conference, and 8 months later we can’t stand it.

1peatfor7

December 5th, 2012
8:37 pm

@Sid Miser Georgia Southern already uses “GS” or “Georgia Southern” on the athletics.

Atlanta_Mafia

December 5th, 2012
8:57 pm

I will NOT give GSU another cent is they let GaSo into the conference!
R U f’cking kidding me? Why would we want GaSo? Please! just say NO!

Eagleit

December 5th, 2012
9:06 pm

You scared Mafia? I smell fear…

Paddy

December 5th, 2012
9:33 pm

5150……if you can’t keep up w/ the subject and the following dialoge,there is no reason to communicate further w/ you. Conference realignments and tv money is not even the point of the discussion. You have continued to point out the obvious and seemed to have missed the real problems that face GSU. And NO, I am not dumb when it comes to these subjects. I guess you are not better than that, as I first assumed.

Well, well, well

December 5th, 2012
11:21 pm

I remember certain members of the fanbase swearing like it was gospel that Ga Southern would never get into FBS. No market, no transportation accessibility, no athletic budget, no endowment, no alumni base, no research university status…

One of them has posted on this very page. Another was parodied on this page.

Me thinks #SCState is not ready for the #StateOfShock that is coming in the @georgiadome this Thursday. #HighVoltage #GSUFootball

December 6th, 2012
9:27 am

<—————– Ha.

GSU transfered student

December 6th, 2012
9:30 am

Could we work on the details of moving our Panther Football to the Big East?

GO State!!!

Commuter school

December 6th, 2012
10:22 am

Why doesn’t state just cancel football. The experiment has been an utter failure.

Paul Coach em up

December 6th, 2012
10:26 am

I think Tek would be a great fit in the Sun Belt. We might even have a winning season.

GStateBen

December 6th, 2012
10:34 am

@BI STUNNA

[confers with mom]

Nope. Your wrong, per my sources.

[high fives mom]

GSU_MEX_ALUM

December 6th, 2012
12:22 pm

Doug,

Any news on the the OC?

Doug Roberson

December 6th, 2012
12:36 pm

Been working on it. Hope to find out something this afternoon.

GSU to the Big East

December 6th, 2012
12:44 pm

Big announcement later today about our new conference and GSU’s purchase of a TON of land downtown.

Paul Johnson

December 6th, 2012
1:30 pm

As a GaSouthern undergrad alum and a Georgia State graduate alum, I believe having them in the same conference would be great for the state of Georgia. I vote YES!