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Karl Benson’s Catch-22 with Sun Belt programs and big money games

It is time for the Sun Belt Conference to start breaking away from depending on big money payouts from power conference opponents, according to Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson.

Benson, the former commissioner of the WAC, said Monday the Sun Belt membership needs to begin breaking away from the dependency of big-money games with little chance to win on the football field. His comments were part of the Sun Belt Conference’s media day event on Monday in New Orleans. It is Benson’s belief scheduling more games against other Group of Five conference opponents will do more to improve the state of the Sun Belt rather than scheduling games with little chance to win in exchange for a big check from programs like Alabama and Florida State etc.

He’s not wrong, really, but convincing Sun Belt schools to give up significant paydays that are sometimes automatically put in the budget could be a tough sell. Football tends to be the biggest money maker for Division 1 programs, and some schools count on those big money games just to stay above water. Giving them up may not make financial sense, but it does make competitive sense on the field.

With one spot in the New Years Six being reserved for the highest-rated champion from the Group of Five, the Sun Belt has a long way to go to begin entering the conversation. One way to go about it would be to schedule (and win) games against other Group of Five conferences, the conferences perceived to be on a more level playing field in terms of program status and resources. The catch-22 here is many of these schools and programs have slowly improved their resources and programs in part from cashing checks from big name programs over time. To improve a program, you need money. The reality is sometimes the most money comes from programs like Ohio State and Texas and Georgia and so on.

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