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Sun Belt newcomer struggling

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Coastal Carolina agreed to jump to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2015, and its inaugural football season in the Sun Belt Conference has produced few dividends while its head coach is on a medical sabbatical.

Joe Moglia, 68, announced in July he was taking a five-month leave to recover from a bronchial asthmatic reaction to allergies. Offensive coordinator Jamey Chadwell has been leading the Chanticleers (1-4, 0-2 Sun Belt), who will travel to Jonesboro on Saturday.

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ARKANSAS STATE VS.

COASTAL CAROLINA

WHEN Saturday, 6 p.m.

WHERE Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro

RECORDS Arkansas State 2-2, 1-0 Sun Belt Conference; Coastal Carolina 1-4, 0-2

INTERNET ESPN3

Inaugural FBS seasons since 2012

Year;Team;Conference;Records

2017;Coastal Carolina;Sun Belt;1-4, 0-2

2015;UNC-Charlotte;C-USA;2-10, 0-8

2014;Appalachian State;Sun Belt;7-5, 6-2

2014;Georgia Southern;Sun Belt;9-3, 8-0*

2014;Old Dominion;C-USA;6-6, 4-4

2013;Georgia State;Sun Belt;0-12, 0-7

2012;Massachusetts;Mid-American;1-11, 1-7

2012;South Alabama;Sun Belt;2-11, 1-7

2012;Texas State;Western Athletic;4-8, 2-4

2012;Texas-San Antonio;Western Athletic;8-4, 3-3

*Sun Belt Champion

It's a rocky start for a program that won three consecutive Big South Conference titles in the Football Championship Subdivision under Moglia, but it's a start that was expected. Coastal Carolina was predicted to finish last in the preseason poll.

"We know it's going to be a hard transition," Chadwell said in July at the Sun Belt media day. "But we're coming off where we feel like we've got a great foundation built with our program."

In January, Moglia persuaded Chadwell to leave his Charleston Southern head coaching position for Coastal Carolina. Chadwell had won two FCS National Coach of the Year awards in four seasons in Charleston, S.C., but he said he couldn't pass up the opportunity to make the jump to FBS and learn from someone like Moglia.

"I think anytime you can leave a legacy and be a part of something on the ground floor and growing it, there's something special about that," Chadwell said.

Programs tend to struggle when making the jump from FCS to FBS. The nine teams that have made the jump since 2012 have a combined record of 39-70 (.358) in their first seasons.

Georgia Southern's 2014 team was an anomaly, when it joined the Sun Belt and went 9-3 -- 8-0 in conference -- a season after it went to the FCS semifinals.

That same season Appalachian State went 7-5, 6-2 in Sun Belt play in its initial campaign.

It would be difficult for Coastal Carolina to have such a season, Chadwell said in July, because the Sun Belt was coming off a year when a record number of six teams went 4-2 in bowl games.

"The conference is so much better now than when those teams made the transition," he said. "I think the money that's been put in, the resources, the visibility of the conference, the bowl tie-ins, there's more and more success that's happened with the conference over the past couple of years than when those teams made the transition."

Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said it was "too early to make a very broad statement" on what effect Coastal Carolina has had as a conference member five games into the season.

Benson said he was at Coastal Carolina's first conference home game Saturday -- a 27-21 loss to Georgia State -- and said it was a "nice crowd" and "nice environment."

Most of the school's athletic programs already compete in the Sun Belt. The Chanticleers volleyball program (8-7, 4-1) is second in the East Division, and the baseball program -- which won the 2016 College World Series -- starts its second season in the conference in February.

Football is generally the highest profile sport, and Benson said oftentimes a conference is judged by how it does on the football side.

That's partly the reason Benson announced in July the expectation that a Sun Belt member could claim the automatic New Year's Six bowl spot given to the highest-ranked Group of 5 conference champion.

There's also financial incentives: The conference that sends a member to the New Year's Six bowl receives a larger share of College Football Playoff revenue than the other Group of 5 conferences.

Troy (4-1, 1-0) is the Sun Belt's leading hope this season, since the Trojans beat No. 25 LSU on Sept. 30.

"We feel like we're going to be a great addition, ultimately, to this conference," Chadwell said. "We feel like we're going to be the ones picked No. 1, or we're going to be the ones talking about a New Year's Eve bowl. That's the goal. ... We feel like we'll be able to do that here eventually. We wouldn't have made the jump if we didn't think so."

Sports on 10/11/2017

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