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1-A vs AA label.

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1-A vs AA label.

My Take:
I've seen this type of report several times over the past several months. Some facts may be a little off but interesting thoughts on his part. I know I'm preaching to the choir because most of us on this board seem fairly knowledgable on how things work in the sports world. But I bold and italcized a paragraph which makes a very good point. FAU seems to be right in the mix.


Commish would rather 'I-AA' just went away
By Fritz Neighbor of the Missoulian

Between the continental breakfasts and the interview feeding frenzies, there were a few eye-popping happenings at the 2005 Big Sky Conference Football Kickoff in Park City, Utah.

Among the eyebrow-raisers, aside from Montana not getting picked to win the Big Sky by the media or coaches, was the news that the Montana Grizzlies' streak of televised games will end at 64. The season-opening home game against Fort Lewis College, a Division II program out of Durango, Colo. - which coincides with the reunion of a certain landmark Griz football team - won't be on TV.

There were also some rule changes, which are in line with all of college football, like the no-contact rule on a kick returner who bobbles a punt or kick. Until the ball hits the ground (muffed) or is secured, a tackler can't make contact with the return man. That could make for some interesting crowd reactions, if my worst-case scenarios play out.

Then there is the grass roots movement to get rid of the I-AA designation. Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton is for it, even while espousing all the good things I-AA has going for it.

"I tell some of my I-A colleagues, The University of Montana was on prime time ESPN2 three weekends in a row last year," Fullerton said in his State of the Big Sky address. "You don't get that in I-A unless you play with the big guys."

Yet the I-A has a certain draw, one guesses, because little guys like the University of Idaho have made the jump. What Fullerton would like to see is larger barriers for programs to hurdle on the way out of I-AA. The main sticking point was supposed to be the requirement of a 15,000-fan average for home games. But the NCAA has never enforced the rule.

So Idaho, San Jose State and Utah State are safe for now. Of course, that depends on your definition of safe.

In an essay found on I-AA.com, Otto Fad wrote on the quandary of I-AA football. By not making I-A mean anything, he wrote, good I-AA programs may have little incentive to stay where they are.

"We did not want to develop great programs in I-AA and lose them to the Siren's call of I-A - where quite frankly, they can't make it," Fullerton said Monday. "By establishing tougher barriers, it will ensure that these people are actually ready to make a move before they make it."

That statement skirts that fact that Boise State - and to a lesser extent, Nevada - made a nice transition out of the Big Sky and into I-A. But for every Boise State and Marshall, there's an Idaho and a North Texas, and things aren't going well on the field or in the budget.

"I don't want to criticize the Utah State's or any of those programs," offered Tim Walsh, Portland State's coach. "But I'd play them daily. San Jose State, Idaho? let's go. I'd rather play some of those schools than the eight teams we're with here."

Out of the 115 or so schools with I-A football programs, Fullerton said, only 40 percent - roughly 50 institutions - turn a profit with their athletic programs. The other 70 or so schools lose money. And the gap between each grows wider.

"What's happening in finance over the last eight years, particularly in Division I-A, is pretty scary," Fullerton said.

That may be the biggest hurdle in a I-AA football program making the jump: The non-Bowl Championship Series schools are losing more money than ever before (while the rich get richer).

In the meantime, I-AA conferences like the Big Sky feel they are not getting enough love.

Make it all Division I, Fullerton said, and have them delineated by the BCS and the PCS - the Playoff Championship Series.

Portland State coach Tim Walsh likes the idea.

"We're sitting (in Portland), and everybody talks about the Pac-10," he said. "I think we have a good conference, and we play good football, but it's still just overshadowed. And I think if you asked people, a lot of them would still say we're Division II.

"People aren't educated about I-AA, so I think we need to be a Division I university, period, end of statement. Whether we're ranked 330th out of 330 Division I teams, that's not the question. The question is, are you Division I? Yes we are. But people don't understand that."

Why not? If I-A doesn't really mean anything, then what does I-AA mean?
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