2010-11 Arkansas State Womenâ€™s Tennis The Sun Belt Conference
The Sun Belt Conference enters its 35th season in 2010-2011 with several constants evident during the over three decade span of the league. Success, progress, and academic excellence have always been at the core of the league and in the second decade of the 21st century those constants could not be more clear. The Sun Belt Conference was founded on August 4, 1976 with New Orleans, South Alabama, Georgia State, Jacksonville, North Carolina-Charlotte and South Florida participating in four men's sports: basketball, golf, soccer and tennis. With the onset of the 21st century the Sun Belt Conference began sponsoring football at the Division I-A level (now known as the Football Bowl Subdivision) in 2001 and generated an automatic bowl tie-in for its conference champion in the New Orleans Bowl. Prior to the 2001 season only LouisianaLafayette had competed at the Division I-A level for the entirety of its program's history. New members North Texas, Middle Tennessee and New Mexico State would take on the task of maturing into I-A programs along with Arkansas State and football only members Idaho and Louisiana-Monroe. The conference's automatic berth into the New Orleans Bowl gave the league credibility, but wins would be needed to show that the league could contend at the highest level of the game. North Texas carried that responsibility well in the early years of Sun Belt Conference football. The Mean Green would represent the league for four consecutive seasons in the New Orleans Bowl. One of the first shining moments in Sun Belt football history came in the second New Orleans Bowl in 2002 when North Texas defeated Conference USA co-champion Cincinnati 2419. More memorable moments would soon follow, but not before the league's membership took on additional changes. Utah State joined the league briefly as a football playing member but departed along with Idaho and New Mexico State following the 2004 season. Troy joined the league as a football only in 2004 and would join as an all-sports member soon thereafter. Florida Atlantic joined initially as a football only member in 2005 and would also enter competition in all sports a couple of years later. FIU, a league member since the late 1990s, began competition in football in 2005 and WKU, a longtime league member, began competition in 2009. Louisiana-Monroe, a founding member of the football league, would join as all-sports member as well. As the Sun Belt Conference evolved with new members and new found success - the league earned two bowl berths for the first time in 2004 - the state of the Football Bowl Subdivision would also evolve. The Sun Belt Conference entered the ranks of the Bowl Championship Series when the BCS restructured prior to the 2006 season. The Sun Belt Conference now found itself as one of 31 NCAA conferences that sponsor multiple sports, but the league was now one of only 11 to participate in the Bowl Championship
Series (BCS). With that lofty standing, expectations for the Sun Belt Conference are as high as ever and the league and its member institutions have consistently delivered in the past few years. Because of its status as a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision coalition, the Sun Belt Conference has a permanent seat on the NCAA's 18-member Board of Directors. As a result, the conference has a crucial voice on some of the most pressing issues in college athletics and will always have a role in the implementation of any future NCAA legislation and guidelines. The conference continues to utilize television to grow and promote the league and its member institutions. The Sun Belt Conference signed a new multi-year agreement with ESPN, Inc. in January of 2009 that will result in unprecedented national coverage for the league. Additionally, ESPN televised the conference's men's basketball championship game for the 30th straight season in 2010, marking its longest affiliation with any conference in the country. The conference's regional television partnership with Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (CSS) and Cox Sports Television (CST) enables live telecasts of Sun Belt events to reach millions of households. The addition of volleyball, baseball and softball to the conference's television package has resulted in more national and regional television exposure for the league than at any time in its history. The Sun Belt Conference has also partnered with JumpTV Sports, Inc. to deliver a full-service, customized, public and premium website to provide fans with a broad range of real-time information and content about the conference's athletic teams. The Sun Belt is one of the few conferences in the nation to provide video highlights and features on its website from each of the league's respective championships. This technology serves as a great recruiting tool for schools by enabling anyone in the world with internet access to view the conference's championship events. Success has been easy to find in recent years. Over the last four seasons the Sun Belt Conference has represented itself well in the football postseason. In fact the Sun Belt Conference boasts a winning record of 4-3 in its seven bowl appearances in the last four seasons. With Middle Tennessee's victory in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, the Sun Belt Conference has now won four bowl games in its last seven appearances. Since 2005 football season, the first year after conference realignment, the Sun Belt Conference ranks 6th out of 11 conferences in composite bowl game winning percentage. The Sun Belt Conference set an all-time league high for players selected in the NFL Draft in 2010 with seven total players selected - topping the previous record of five in 2007. The world has taken notice of the Sun Belt Conference as well. Proof of that comes as the league now has two automatic tie-ins to postseason bowl games. The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl recently extended its agreements with the Sun Belt Conference ensuring that a
Sun Belt team will play in that bowl game through 2013 (the league has sent a team to that game every year since the game's inception in 2001). The Sun Belt Conference also signed an agreement this past offseason with the GMAC Bowl, played annually in Mobile, Alabama, that will ensure a Sun Belt team plays in that bowl game through 2013. The league also has secondary tie-ins with the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl, the St. Petersburg Bowl and the PapaJohns.com Bowl. Each of the 19 sports has seen numerous team and individual accomplishments, but in the realm of academic excellence nearly every Sun Belt Conference school is currently graduating its student-athletes at a rate higher than its respective school's student body. For the third consecutive year Sun Belt Conference student-athletes topped the previous year's record number of Commissioner's List and Academic Honor Roll awards winners. 1,700 Sun Belt student-athletes earned a GPA over 3.0 for the previous school year and were named to either the Sun Belt Academic Honor Roll or Sun Belt Commissioner's List. Sun Belt schools combined to have 756 student-athletes land on the Commissioner's List, which honors all student-athletes recording a 3.5 GPA or better during the 2008-09 academic year. The league also had a total of 944 student-athletes named to the Academic Honor Roll, which is awarded to those maintaining a 3.0-3.49 GPA. The total of 1,700 student-athletes that were honored tops the previous highs of 1,503 set during the 2007-08 school year and 1,429 for the 2006-07 school year. Prominent Sun Belt alumni include former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (Denver), NFL Hall of Fame football player "Mean" Joe Greene (North Texas), Florida Marlins All-Star baseball player Luis Gonzalez (South Alabama), Boston Red Sox baseball player Mike Lowell (MLB All-Star and 2007 MLB World Series MVP, FIU), former member of the United States Senate and House of Representatives John Breaux (LouisianaLafayette), country music superstar Tim McGraw (Louisiana-Monroe), and actor Andy Garcia (FIU). The conference's first 34 years have also produced numerous individual national champions along with Olympic track medalists including Earl Bell, Tom Hill and Al Joyner (Arkansas State), Hollis Conway (Louisiana-Lafayette), and Tayna Lawrence (FIU). Old Dominion's Anne Donovan, who received the Naismith Trophy recognizing the nation's top women's basketball player in 1983, helped the United States win the Olympic gold medal in 1984 and helped the Lady Monarchs capture the national championship in 1985.