The Red Wolves were a 26-point favorite over the Texas State Bobcats, the only team who could prevent Arkansas State from owning the Sun Belt championship outright. Both Georgia Southern and Appalachian State were in contention for a title share, but with one loss to A-State's zero, were no longer master of their own fates.
The outcome was as expected. The Red Wolves, fully focused on an undisputed title, leveled the Bobcats 55-17. There would be no sharing in the Sun Belt this season. The A-State faithful stormed the field, eager to celebrate with Coach Blake Anderson and a special senior squad that had endured more coaching changes than any program in the FBS. The fans waited for the conference trophy to be bestowed upon the team.
But nobody from the Sun Belt Conference bothered to show. The system troika of Tim Hudson, Chuck Welch and Terry Mohajir took the stage at the center of Centennial Bank Stadium and handed the Sun Belt Conference trophy to a Gatorade-drenched Blake Anderson.
Arkansas State was left with the embarrassment of presetting their own trophy to themselves.
System officials are reportedly not amused. A-State fans, having long felt snubbed by conference commissioner Karl Benson, were incensed. The reaction was not good.
From what I understand Karl Benson has very valid personal reasons for not being in Jonesboro today. As for other Sun Belt officials...— Kara Richey (@Kara_Richey) December 5, 2015
@RedditCFB The shameful leadership of the Sunbelt is inexcusable. Any other conferences need a good team?— Chris Ritter (@Critter455) December 6, 2015
Here's a photo of the Sun Belt rep that showed up to present a conference championship to the Red Wolves tonight. pic.twitter.com/TH5CBzEztD— Rushosaurus rex (@RedWolfRush) December 6, 2015
Whether or not Karl Benson had a legit excuse to miss the championship presentation is irrelevant. There is absolutely no reason why no one from the Office of the Sun Belt was respectfully on hand to present the conference's flagship trophy to the SBC's undisputed champion. Where was Deputy Commissioner Kathy Keene? Where was Kristen Stuart, Exec. Asst. to the Commissioner? Where were any of the people listed as Conference Staff on the Sun Belt website?
The No-Show was a slap in the face to Coach Anderson, to the team that represented the conference so well, and to a program that has loyally stuck with the conference while others fled.
The Sun Belt's tone deaf lack of organization, urgency and common sense is an embarrassment to everyone in the conference. It lends more fodder to news organizations and college football fans who routinely dismiss the Sun Belt. And why not? The Sun Belt dismisses the Sun Belt! We all looked like fools.
This is a travesty that the conference athletic directors should not ignore. Obviously, no one currently working at Sun Belt headquarters is actually interested in the Sun Belt. Presenting a conference trophy is just too damn hard. It's time for new leadership. Preferably, leadership that gives a damn.