Idaho and New Mexico State will no longer be part of the Sun Belt Conference after the 2017 football season, the league announced.
The Sun Belt plans to move forward with 10 teams. “This was a strategic decision that was reached following a thorough and complete review of our options,” Sun Belt Conference and Texas State University president Denise Trauth said in a statement, according to USA Today.
Idaho and New Mexico State were part of the league in the early 2000s and rejoined it for football in 2014. USA Today reports Idaho is considering moving to the FCS Subdivision’s Big Sky Conference, in which it competes in other sports. New Mexico State’s other sports play in the Western Athletic Conference.
The Vandals are 5–18 in two years in the Sun Belt, and the Aggies are 5–19.
“The Sun Belt’s Presidents and Chancellors strongly believe it is in the best interest of the conference to have a core membership of 10 football teams that are geographically located within the ‘footprint’ of the conference and that these 10 members also compete in all conference sports,” Trauth said. “This decision, along with the full 12-team membership that goes into place for the 2016–17 season with the addition of Coastal Carolina University, will reduce travel demands and missed class time for all Sun Belt student-athletes — while also furthering the development of regional rivalries within the conference.”
USA Today reports the Sun Belt will look into creating a football championship game.
“We are disappointed by the Sun Belt’s decision,” said Idaho president Chuck Staben in a statement. “But we are optimistic about the options before us and we are continuing to diligently consider our future affiliation as an opportunity to find the stability and full participation we have not experienced in the Sun Belt. We will make a decision in the coming months.”