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Former FCS Powers Strengthen Sun Belt

North Dakota State seems to have a stranglehold on the FCS these days. They have appeared in, or won, the National Championship in 10 out of the last 12 years (9 titles).

Before their unprecedented dominance, former Division 1-AA/FCS squads that now call the Sun Belt home had 23 appearances in the title game and accounted for 14 national titles.

Georgia Southern moved to the FBS with six total national championships, Appalachian State with three, JMU and Marshall both with two, and ULM (yes, THAT ULM) with one. Arkansas State had a title game appearance as well, losing 48-21. That was back in 1986 to now fellow Sun Belt Conference member, Georgia Southern.

‘So what? Move up to big boy football and play real competition.' Sound familiar? That’s what these programs heard repeatedly after proving it year after year in the FCS. The part the casual fan doesn’t understand is the culture and history that was developed during their time at the FCS level. Yes, players graduate and coaches leave, but the history and traditions remain. These programs (sans ULM) have come up a level in competition without losing a step. Sure, there were growing pains along the way, but these teams now make up a large part of the power held within Sun Belt Conference football.

Take a look at some of the newest additions' total winning seasons, since 2014, after making the jump from FCS to Sun Belt:

Appalachian State (2014) – 8 of 9

Coastal Carolina (2016) – 3 of 6

Georgia Southern (2014) – 5 of 9

James Madison (2022) – 1 of 1

Someone in the Sun Belt offices was doing their homework before sending invites out. That’s 17 winning seasons out of a total of 25 (68%). In that same time span, those four teams accounted for a total of 10 bowl wins in 15 attempts, racked up seven Power 5 victories, and beat seven ranked opponents. When people ask why fans of the Sun Belt are speaking of their conference being the best Group of 5 in the nation, these are just some of the stats that help back that up.

The next time someone balks at the possibility of another FCS team being added to the conference or moving to FBS in general, stop and remind them to look at the resume first. History and tradition mean something. I’m glad the Sun Belt is focusing strongly on those values, while the Power conferences make moves only to line their pockets.


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