Sun Belt Conference Announces 2022 Football Schedule Amid C-USA Drama

Tyler Kennett, Sports Editor

The Thundering Herd is a hot commodity. 

Marshall has now featured on two conference schedules for the 2022 football season. The Sun Belt announced its schedule on Tuesday morning, Mar. 1, two weeks after Conference USA released a schedule that also featured Marshall as one of its teams. 

Comparing the two schedules, Marshall has four games overlapping: Norfolk State, Notre Dame, Bowling Green, Appalachian State and Old Dominion, a team who also plans to leave C-USA in the Summer. 

However, Marshall still battles with Conference USA within the courts to exit the conference. While the Herd was granted a restraining order to keep C-USA from proceeding with arbitration, the case will continue its hearings on Mar. 16. 

Around C-USA, Southern Miss received a similar restraining order. The next hearing for the Golden Eagles is scheduled for Mar. 7. As for Old Dominion, the Monarchs’ first hearing was scheduled for Tuesday. As a result, all three teams will likely receive extended restraining orders as hearings continue in their pursuit of joining the SBC. 

For all three, the schedule is not yet set in stone. 

Presuming that Marshall will join the Sun Belt, the Herd will be forced to take one of those overlapping games, Appalachian State, and turn it into a new non-conference opponent.  

This change comes due to Appalachian State becoming a conference opponent if the Herd were to join the SBC. With the change, the Herd would take on Gardner-Webb, a member of the FCS, on Oct. 1. 

Along with Norfolk State, the addition of Gardner Webb forces Marshall to take on two FCS opponents in 2022. When looking into bowl eligibility, Marshall could only count one FCS win toward the seven needed for eligibility. The NCAA does not allow for two or more. 

Presuming a clean sweep of the non-conference slate—including a lofty win over Notre Dame—Marshall would still have to win four of eight conference games to go bowling. If the Herd were to go winless in non-conference FBS matchups, Marshall would need to win six of its eight matchups. 

It is worth mentioning that while James Madison has been an FCS powerhouse in the past, the Dukes also aim to join the SBC. It will be their first year at the FBS level. They join Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Mississippi as teams planning to transition to the SBC. Their transition date is set for Jul. 1 of 2022. 

Every state utilized in a map of the Sun Belt Conference has a bordering state with an opponent, making it extremely efficient for division-based travel. For Marshall, two road trips in 2022 will find the Herd in Virginia as they take on Old Dominion and James Madison.  

 For Marshall’s home games, all four SBC teams that competed in bowl games—App State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia State and Louisiana—will all travel to Huntington for their first conference matchups with the Thundering Herd. 

 The longest road trip for Marshall would be to Troy University, a school five driving hours closer than North Texas in Conference USA. This was a selling point in the realignment for teams such as Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina, two returning SBC teams that clamored for cheaper travel overall. 

 “The Sun Belt Conference—with our successful football programs and the passionate fanbases of our 14 members—is now stronger and much better positioned than it has ever been,” Keith Gill, Sun Belt Conference commissioner, said in a statement. “The compelling matchups of our regional rivalries, our already strong foundation and the addition of four schools will make the 2022 football season one of the most anticipated in the history of the Sun Belt.” 

As of Tuesday, all three teams anticipating departure from C-USA have revealed the SBC schedule as their 2022 schedule on their respective websites. There seems to be no intention for any of the three schools to return to C-USA, leaving the conference with only 11 teams on the schedule released earlier in February. 22 games would be compromised as a result of the realignment process. 

 Kickoff times and network spots will be selected in June for the first three weeks of Sun Belt games. Afterward, the Sun Belt does a 12-day selection process.