As the University of New Orleans transitions from NCAA Division I athletics to Division III, the school announced it will officially leave the Sun Belt Conference on July 1.
But Athletics Director Wood Selig said Friday there’s a lot of good for Western in UNO’s descent.
The men’s and women’s basketball teams will now play 16 conference games instead of 18, Selig said, allowing Western to schedule two more non-conference games to boost its RPI.
“We’ll be able to attract national names and maybe some teams of local interest,” Selig said.
With an even 12 members left in the Sun Belt, Selig said the baseball schedules will change too.
Stressing geographic rivalries, Western will open and close the SBC season with a three-game series against Middle Tennessee. The same goes for Florida Atlantic and Florida International, as well as South Alabama and Troy.
In contrast to basketball, where the Toppers’ RPI drops in conference play, Selig said the baseball team welcomes SBC competition.
“With a league that’s as strong as ours is — our league is a (No.) 7 RPI in baseball — you want to play within your league as much as you can because it enhances everyone’s overall RPI,” Selig said.
Should the SBC look to expand, Selig said he hoped it would be to 16 teams, creating two eight-team divisions. But he added that any more changes would take a push from an outside force, such as the recent talks of Big 10 Conference expansions.
Selig suggested that the addition of a 12th member to the Big 10, however, would be unlikely. Right now, every team contributes at least $20 million a year to the conference pool.
“I think their presidents need to evaluate what value an additional member may bring,” Selig said. “I don’t know, with the exception of Notre Dame, who could bring an incremental $20 million to the Big 10 Conference.”
With 12 members, Selig said he’s happy with how the SBC will look in July. He said he hopes the conference will keep an even number of schools from now on.