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Source: Idaho and New Mexico State to leave Sun Belt after 2017

Sun Belt

The Sun Belt plans to announce Idaho and New Mexico State will no longer be included in the conference's football membership in two seasons, a source told FootballScoop on Tuesday.

The Sun Belt will hold a teleconference to "address the future of the conference's football membership" later this afternoon.

Both programs pitched conference membership last month on why they should remain Sun Belt. Idaho's non-football teams compete in the Big Sky, while New Mexico State plays in the WAC, which does not offer football.

Coastal Carolina was added to the league's roster in September and will join the league over the summer, with football coming aboard for the 2017 season. The Chanticleers' addition pushed the Sun Belt roster to 12 teams, at the time the minimum number required to stage a conference championship game. But in January the NCAA amended its rule requiring the 12-team, two-division format, meaning the Sun Belt no longer needed its two westernmost, football-only members to play a championship game.

We understand the Sun Belt will make the move official during its 3 p.m. ET teleconference. As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.

Update: The league has officially announced the move.

NEW ORLEANS – Beginning with the 2018 football season the Sun Belt Conference will be a 10-team football league. 

Sun Belt Conference Presidents and Chancellors made the decision to be a 10-team league rather than extend the current membership agreements that are in place with the University of Idaho and New Mexico State University. These agreements will now expire following the 2017 football season.

"This was a strategic decision that was reached following a thorough and complete review of our options," said Sun Belt Conference and Texas State University President Dr. Denise Trauth. "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. 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."

The other nine football-playing members of the conference – Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, UL Lafayette, UL Monroe, South Alabama, Texas State and Troy – will be joined by Coastal Carolina in 2017 to complete the 10-team configuration that will be in place for the 2018 season.

"This 10-team football league will maximize the Sun Belt's on-field performance, push us to the top ranking of our four peer conferences, and will give us the best opportunity to soon place a team in one of the College Football Playoff's New Year's Day bowl games," said Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson. "We will also now have serious conversations with our football coaches and athletics directors about conducting a football championship game. These discussions will take place this spring and a decision will be made in the very near future."

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