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Sun Belt Expansion: Missouri State Next?

With talks apparently underway between the Sun Belt and Missouri State, Underdog Dynasty's Kyle Vos investigates what makes the Bears an attractive option for league expansion.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

The Sun Belt must always be on the lookout for expansion opportunities with the current flux of conferences.  Word came out that Missouri State might be one of those options on Monday.

Missouri State is an interesting program for a couple of reasons.  The first is that it appears to be intent on joining the FBS for football.  The Plaster Sports Complex, where the Bears call home, was approved for a $40 million renovation before last year with construction beginning after it.

Having the facilities to compete at the top level is step one in making the move.  Putting forth a competitive team on the field is the next, and that's where Missouri State appears to be further behind.

Current coach Terry Allen has a record of 31-47 in Springfield, MO.  His best season is 6-5 and each of the last three seasons have ended with more losses than wins.  Missouri State hasn't made the FCS playoffs since 1990 and has endured 15 losing seasons in the 23 years since then.

While the recent additions of Appalachian State and Georgia Southern represent FCS powerhouses getting the invite, the Sun Belt has shown a willingness to go in the other direction as well.  Georgia State and South Alabama were both added while their programs were in their infancy.  The two schools have generated as much athletic revenue as anyone in the conference.

South Alabama has provided almost immediate results on the field as well, tying for the third-best record in the conference last year and being predicted to finish there again this year by the coaches in the preseason poll.  If Missouri State invests the money and places the importance needed on the football program to get it to the FBS level, then the product on the field should improve as well.

Logistically, the move seems to make sense.  Springfield is in the southern part of Missouri, which puts it in a decent place geographically relative to the rest of the Sun Belt.  Within driving distance to Jonesboro, AR, it's easy to see why Arkansas State's athletic director would want to keep the Missouri State ball rolling.

Springfield holds the 74th largest television market and Missouri ranks in the top half of the country in population.  With the University of Missouri being the only FBS football team in the state, there should be enough room for Missouri State to gain its support as well.

Of course, there's still a long ways to go before Missouri State joins the Sun Belt, but it's worth noting that talks are happening.  This talk might be all we hear for a while with the season almost underway, but the seed may have been planted.