By Paxton Graf
NEW ORLEANS — Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Keith Gill kicked off the 2023 Sun Belt Media Days with a recurring motto: “The Sun Belt is rising.”
The Sun Belt Conference has slowly been improving its total performance since Gill’s inaugural season as commissioner in 2019. Five years later, the conference is in one of the best states it’s ever been in while still looking to continue to rise.
“This gathering of head football coaches, football student-athletes and media is the perfect opportunity to kick off what will be the most exciting and successful Sun Belt Football season ever,” said Gill.
The 2023 Football season will look to surpass the historic 2022 campaign that featured a new 14-team conference that led to a record-breaking seven bowl game participants and nine NFL draft picks, which tied the conference for the second-most of all groups of five conferences.
“It’s nice seeing that we’re having more people participate in the Senior Bowl, more draft picks and people are recognizing the quality of Sun Belt football; because that matters to recruits, they want to have a chance to go play professionally, and they know that they can do that here,” said Gill.
As the college football landscape continues to evolve every year with conference realignments, Gill expressed that the previous expansion of the conference will be the last one for the foreseeable future. However, Gill did express his excitement for the new College Football Playoff (CFP) expansion that will take effect in 2024.
“We can’t be excited enough for that opportunity for our programs, particularly for our coaches and our student-athletes to compete for a national championship,” said Gill.
With the intent of making this the most exciting season in conference history, the conference still has one more thing to accomplish. The goal for this season is to finally have a team make the CFP. The closest the conference has ever gotten to the playoffs happened in 2021 when the Ragin Cajuns went 13-1 and ended the season with a New Orleans Bowl win.
“We want to go to a New Year’s Six Bowl or the college football playoff,” said Gill. “That’s really what’s important to us. I think we’ve got the teams to do it. We’ve got some really good teams that are returning a lot of good players with some really good coaching.”
This year’s media days introduced a new head coach for the Texas State Bobcats in G.J. Kinne. The Bobcats’ new head coach has already made an impact in the conference with his incoming class of 50 players and 10 new coaches.
“I’m sure he’s gonna do a terrific job,” said Gill. “You know, he’s been a great coach everywhere he’s been. So, we’re just excited that he’s here, and I look forward to watching his team play.”
Commissioner Gill plans to travel to San Marcos to see Coach Kinne and his historic recruiting class when they host Nevada on September 23 at 6:00 p.m.
Written by: Preethi Mangadu