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Sorry UMass: Sun Belt opts against expansion... for now

It was reported earlier this month that UMass, which will be leaving the MAC following the 2015 season, had been in discussions with the Sun Belt about moving its football program to the conference.

A week later, it appears that option is, at least for the foreseeable future, off the table.

Following his league’s spring meetings that ended Wednesday, commissioner Karl Benson released a statement explaining that membership had tabled the idea of expanding “at this time.” In that statement, Benson also used wording that doesn’t sound good for the Minutemen’s future in the conference.

“While we may explore adding a 12th all-sports member [to] the Sun Belt Conference, at this time we are moving the conference forward with our membership as is,” the statement began. “Come July 1 the membership will be stable for the first time in over two years with no incoming or departing members,” he said. “The makeup of that 11 all-sports conference will give us more than just stability – it will give us strength and opportunity.”

The phrase “adding a 12th all-sports member” doesn’t bode well for UMass as the athletic department is looking for a league home for its football program, not every other sport as well. Whether the university’s stance would change come 2015 is unclear.

In addition to UMass, it’s believed the SBC had considered current FCS members Liberty and James Madison. Liberty has been making noise for a couple of years about leaping to the FBS level, while James Madison announced last month that its football program wouldn’t be making the move after discussions with the SBC had taken place.