Sun Belt explains why Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns and Coastal Carolina won't get to play

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Coastal Carolina and UL finished last season amid controversy in a bizarre end to the 2020 Sun Belt Conference football season.

The Sun Belt discussed changing its 2021 schedule to create a meeting between last season’s two top-ranked teams, but ultimately opted against it after considering how that would impact other league programs, commissioner Keith Gill said in a Zoom conference Wednesday with Acadiana-area media members.

The 10-member Sun Belt plays an eight-game schedule, meaning each team does not play one other program each year. This year just happens to be one UL and Coastal Carolina do not meet.

“We certainly were hoping, you know, that we were in a cycle that wasn’t gonna happen,” Gill said. “Certainly we talked about whether we should alter our schedule.

 “We just decided that we shouldn’t, because … that means that another team isn’t gonna have the opportunity to have Louisiana or Coastal, or however you do it, come to their place.

“We’re trying to grow our brand in all our markets,” Gill added, “not just one or two.”

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Cajuns, Chanticleers have history

Coastal Carolina (11-1) finished last season No. 14 in the Amway Coaches Poll. UL (10-1) was No. 16.

The Cajuns’ only loss: 30-27 to Coastal Carolina on a 40-yard field goal with four seconds left. The Chanticleers’ only loss was to Liberty in the Cure Bowl.

UL won the Sun Belt West Division; Coastal Carolina won the East. The two teams were to have met in the conference’s championship game, hosted in December by the Chanticleers.

But the Sun Belt canceled the game, citing “a positive COVID-19 test within” Coastal’s program. It said that “because of contact tracing, an entire position group would not be available to play due to possible exposure.”

The teams were declared co-champions.

The Cajuns, who learned of the cancellation only after traveling to South Carolina, were livid, with some feeling the Chanticleers were ducking a rematch.

“I’m going to let everybody draw their own conclusions, and I support the drawing of conclusions,” UL athletic director Bryan Maggard said at the time.

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Commissioner Keith Gill stands by the Sun Belt's decision to UL and Coastal Carolina to play each other in the 2021 football regular season.

Keith Gill stands by decision

When it was canceled, UL coach Billy Napier called for the championship game to be rescheduled.

It wasn’t.

Now there won’t even be a rematch this year. Gill stands by the decision.

“Certainly that (UL and Coastal Carolina playing) will pick back up next year, and in a good spot,” he said. “So we certainly we understand that others may think differently.

“But … it made sense to kind of keep (the current schedule structure) going, just because we’ve got to manage that rotation in some ways, … and we’re trying to build our brand in all our markets, so it’s important to have our marquis teams cycled through there on a regular basis, and making changes like that prevents that from happening.”