Christopher Smith

Sun Belt Seeks 12th School, Championship Game

Created on Jan. 04, 2014 5:12 PM EST

The Sun Belt is seeking a 12th member by June 1 in order to be able to stage a conference championship game in 2015.

Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference and the Mountain West Conference all stage championship games now with the American Athletic Conference soon to follow.

The Big 12 is the only major conference without a championship game. (NCAA rules require conferences to have at least 12 members in order to hold a conference championship in football.)

"We miss out not having that type of exposure on that championship Saturday," Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson told, adding there are interested teams.

Western Kentucky is headed to Conference USA after this season. Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are transitioning from FCS to the Sun Belt in 2014 and independents New Mexico State and Idaho are joining the conference as well.

The Sun Belt played with eight member schools in 2013 and the movement this year leaves the conference with 11 schools.

Seven of the eight teams were bowl-eligible this year, but five of those, including Western Kentucky at 8-4, did not receive bowl invites. But the Sun Belt is at the bottom of the NCAA totem poll in the FBS, and it's unlikely to steal a member institution from any of the other conferences. The most likely choice for an additional school would come from the FCS level -- Coastal Carolina, perhaps.

"We need the 12th team, and not just for football reasons. Next year we'll be an 11-team basketball, volleyball, team sport league," Benson told

"We've got some geography issues, we've got some missed class-time issues that could be resolved with a 12th team, especially a 12th team in kind of our eastern division: South Alabama, Troy, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Appalachian State. Just look at the map and we need somebody in there to be a travel partner for Appalachian State. "

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