Sun Belt Conference to add football championship game in 2018

Appalachian State, which tied for the conference title last season, will play in the East Division, along with Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Troy and Coastal Carolina

Randy Sartin—USA TODAY Sports
Coach Scott Satterfield and Appalachian State will win a share of the Sun Belt Conference title if they beat Louisiana-Lafayette this weekend. (Randy Sartin— / USA TODAY Sports)

Appalachian State had to share the Sun Belt Conference football championship with Arkansas State last season after both teams finished with 7-1 league records.Starting in 2018, the top two teams will be able to decide the title on the field.The conference announced Tuesday at its annual spring meetings in Point Clear, Ala., that it will begin holding a football championship game with the winners of two five-team divisions playing one another at a campus site of the higher-ranked team.Appalachian State will play in the East Division, along with Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Troy and Coastal Carolina — which is currently transitioning from the FCS level to the FBS. The West Division will consist of Arkansas State, Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama and Texas State.Current Sun Belt members Idaho and New Mexico State will be leaving the conference after the 2017 academic year.Led by coach Scott Satterfield’s Mountaineers, who beat Toledo 31-28 in the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., the Sun Belt sent four teams to bowls in 2016. Its 4-2 record gave it the highest winning percentage among the so-called “Group of Five” conferences.”Empirical evidence exists that clearly shows the Sun Belt’s upward trends,” Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson said in a statement. “Our on-field success can be documented, but it is also worth thinking about how much perception of the Sun Belt has changed. We’ve caught the attention of the nation on a number of occasions and that has helped shift public opinion. People recognize our conference and our member institutions — and most importantly they associate them with success.”There is a universal sense that the Sun Belt is where it needs to be — strong and successful, but always willing to push the boundaries in order to find greater levels of achievement.”The conference also announced that it plans to adopt a centralized replay system for football similar to the one used by the ACC and other Power Five leagues. The Southeastern Conference has specifically utilized the setup, including having officials in a centralized area to look at replays from games and assist officials in the stadium making decisions.