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Questions aplenty for Sun Belt newcomer

POSTED: July 24, 2014 7:53 p.m.
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Georgia Southern head football coach Willie Fritz

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NEW ORLEANS — The one word that was thrown around all day was “unknown.”

On Tuesday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for Sun Belt Conference football media day, eyes were on the four Sun Belt newcomers; Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Idaho and New Mexico State.

While much of the discussion between interviews surrounded the uncertain future of the Football Bowl Subdivision and the division of power between the “Power 5” conferences and the mid-major “Group of 5” conferences, Georgia Southern and App State also were subjects of the conversations.

There’s even unknown between the former Southern Conference rivals.

“Georgia Southern’s the only team we know out of the 12 on the schedule,” App State coach Scott Satterfield said, “and they changed coaches.”

A lot of confusion surrounded new Eagles coach Willie Fritz and his offense. He constantly deflected questions about how Georgia Southern “used to run the option.” Fritz kept explaining that it doesn’t look the same, but what he does is still “the option.”

“Everybody seems to be interested in what type of offense we’re going to be running and how dissimilar it is from what Georgia Southern’s been running,” he said.

New Mexico State coach Doug Martin knows about Fritz and the option, something fans of the Aggies will see for the first time when the teams meet Oct. 4.

“Georgia Southern will run the option — they’ll throw it a little bit more than they did in the past — but it’ll be an education for our fans,” Martin said.

No matter how much or little everyone knew about two of the Sun Belt’s newcomers, everyone was aware that App beat Michigan in 2007 and GSU beat Florida last year.

“They’ll fit in very well in this league,” Texas State coach Dennis Franchione, the former Alabama and Texas A&M coach, said about the Eagles. “How quick they get to the level they want to be remains to be seen, but they’re not void of talent. They beat Florida, so they obviously have some players.”

Conference realignment
Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson says the league is in no hurry to find a 12th football-playing member so the conference can split into divisions and hold a conference title game.

“If it was real important, we could get there this afternoon,” he said. “So it’s balancing how important it is versus getting the right school. Right now, it’s a matter of balancing from a geographic standpoint, academic fit and all that. We’re not going to rush into it.”

Currently, an FBS conference must have at least 12 members and two divisions to hold a championship game, but Benson didn’t deny that the idea of allowing an 11-team league to hold a championship game has at least been discussed as a possibility.

“Not at this juncture,” Benson said. “There has been some conversation, some discussion that could open up that door and eliminate the 12 (team) requirement, but at this stage you have to have 12 and you have to have divisions.”

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