NORMAL — Illinois State has been contacted by the Sun Belt Conference about a possible move from the Missouri Valley Football Conference, ISU director of athletics Gary Friedman said Friday.
Friedman indicated the Redbirds are not interested in such a change at this time.
“They did contact us. We had a very informal conversation,” Friedman said. “They said ‘we are calling a number of schools and you are one of them.’
“In essence, they just wanted to know the state of our program. I updated them that we are in the middle of a stadium renovation, we are looking forward to building our program on the FCS level and we are very happy with the Missouri Valley Football Conference and are certainly committed to that.”
The Sun Belt is a Bowl Subdivision conference that is not part of the Bowl Championship Series. A move by ISU from the Championship Subdivision to FBS would require a multi-million dollar financial commitment.
“Our focus is making our football program as strong as possible at the FCS level,” said Friedman. “The key is to show consistent success and consistently make and advance in the playoffs. We want to grow our fan base, and we’ve got to continue to do that.
“FCS affords us the opportunity to win a national championship. That’s very exciting. That’s our goal and that’s Brock’s (football coach Brock Spack) goal. The opportunity is there and within our reach.”
An ongoing national migration from FCS to FBS includes the recent announcement that FCS powers Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are moving to FBS and the Sun Belt for the 2014 season. James Madison and Liberty are reportedly considering a similar move.
Very much a conference in transition, the Sun Belt lost Western Kentucky to Conference USA effective in 2014 earlier this spring.
For the 2013 season, the Sun Belt has eight football-playing members in Western Kentucky, Georgia State, Texas State, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State, Troy and South Alabama. The Sun Belt also has programs that do not offer football in Texas-Arlington and Arkansas-Little Rock.
Two more schools set to join the Sun Belt’s football roster in 2014 are Idaho and New Mexico State.
Indiana State director of athletics Ron Prettyman recently confirmed to the Terre Haute Tribune-Star the Sun Belt also has spoken to him, but the Sycamores are not interested in leaving the Missouri Valley.
Friedman declined to speculate whether a future move to an FBS conference could be done on a football-only basis.
When asked about possible implications of current FCS upheaval, Friedman said, “I don’t think down the road any option is off the table. But our focus is making all our sports the best they can be in the Missouri Valley.”