NEW ORLEANS – Keith Gill has reached a milestone.
During his first state of the Sun Belt Conference address inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Monday morning, Gill admitted to hitting a benchmark in his brief time as conference commissioner.
“As you may know, I’ve been on the job for a little less than three months, so I’m still learning a lot every day,” Gill said. “But I recently passed an important milestone and now feel like a veteran because I can drive to our offices here in the Sun Belt without using GPS and I don’t get lost.”
Gill may have needed ample time to gain confidence to navigate around the city where the Sun Belt headquarters is located. Gill though didn’t need any additional time when it comes to his build up confidence regarding the present, and future, of the Sun Belt.
“I stand here today in this historic building to say that the state of the Sun Belt is strong, and when the final whistle is blown at the CFP National Championship in this stadium, I will also be able to stand here and say the state of the Sun Belt is strong,” Gill said. “It will be another exciting year for Sun Belt football. The competition for the league championship will be as exciting as ever, and the non-conference schedule will treat our fans to some of the best football in the nation.”
The brand of football will still feature non-conference games against teams from the Power 5 conferences. For example, University of Louisiana opens up the season inside the Superdome against Mississippi State of the SEC, while Georgia Southern travels to Baton Rouge to open the year at LSU.
The Sun Belt though is making a strong effort not to take so many “money” games against Power 5 teams.
“Our non-conference schedule will consist of 13 games against Autonomy Five (Power 5) opponents, 13 games against Group of Five opponents, four games against independents, and 10 games from teams from the football championship subdivision,” Gill said.
The new Sun Belt Conference commissioner proclaimed that the league’s approach to scheduling is efficient and beneficial.
“Our non-conference scheduling model is working,” Gill said. “Over the past five seasons, only 35 percent of our non-conference games have come against Autonomy Five opponents. Compare that to the beginning of the decade when when the 2010 football season saw that Sun Belt played 75 percent of its non-conference games against the Autonomy Five competition.”
Gill also expressed that the current size of the conference is just the right number — that essentially there is no need for expansion or any worry that a team will leave the Sun Belt for another Group of Five conference.
“We believe that we have the perfect number of members; 10 football and 12 all-sport members has us well positioned for success,” Gill said. “We are excited about our footprint in the Sun Belt of the United States, from the Carolinas to Texas, and our geography creates strong rivalries and schedules through our divisional framework. We feel great about where we are from a membership standpoint and are quite bullish on our current composition.”