TERRE HAUTE — It seemed so far-fetched.
Internet rumors circulated that Indiana State had been approached by the Sun Belt Conference to bring the Sycamores’ football team into the Sun Belt’s fold.
The Sun Belt is part of the Football Bowl Subdivision. Bowl football. Big boy football … and all it entails.
ISU’s program has turned itself around on the field, with three consecutive winning seasons after scraping the bottom of the Division I ranks for much of the 2000s, a time when the program’s very future was in jeopardy. Progress made since the dark days of 2009, when ISU lost to NAIA Quincy and owned the nation’s longest losing streak, has been monumental.
But this? Bowl-level football?
While the on-field product has stepped it up, there’s little else to indicate ISU is ready for FBS football. ISU still hasn’t come close to filling its small stadium … and Memorial Stadium’s capacity (12,764) doesn’t meet the FBS attendance requirement (15,000) in any case.
Moreover, ISU only recently funded all of the 63 scholarships allocated at the Football Championship Subdivision level. The scholarship limit for a FBS program is 85. How could ISU fund those scholarships, plus, the likely women’s sport it would have to add to maintain Title IX compliance?
Then there are the higher coaches’ salaries and the increased travel commitment to name just a few more ramifications of moving up. Playing football at the FBS level is a complete game-changer for the entire athletic program, not just football.
ISU approached by the Sun Belt? It seemed preposterous.
But in a day and age where the tectonic plates of collegiate athletics have moved rapidly and created earthquakes that have shaken nearly every school at the Division I level, preposterous is the new norm.
And in this case, the preposterous turned out to be true.