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From I-AA to I-A to Plan A, B, C

Posted December 18 2004

FAU is looking at three different scenarios depending on what the NCAA Board of Directors does at its Jan. 10 meeting in Dallas.

PLAN A - Hope that the NCAA Board of Directors votes to rescind the attendance requirement. That is a possibility, since support for the attendance rule has waned since the new package of rules was approved two years ago. The Board also could weaken the penalties or delay implementation of the rule, which could give FAU a pass.


PLAN B - If the NCAA keeps the attendance rule, FAU will seek a waiver from the I-A Membership Committee, which will be reviewing FAU's move from I-AA to I-A. FAU has several arguments, including the hurricanes that disrupted this year's schedule. A waiver would allow FAU to proceed with its move to I-A.

PLAN C - If the NCAA keeps the rule and FAU is not granted a waiver, the school will pursue legal action, likely filing a suit that will argue that the attendance limit is arbitrary, out of the university's control and unfairly penalizes new programs such as FAU's.

- Ted Hutton

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Attendance issue a sore spot for FAU, FIU

By Ted Hutton
Staff Writer
Posted December 18 2004

Rick Chryst should be enjoying this holiday season.

Chryst, Commissioner of the Mid-American Conference, is monitoring the record five MAC teams that are in bowl games this year.


But at the same time Chryst is celebrating his conference's achievements he also has to worry about the fate of the four MAC teams that did not meet the NCAA mandated average of 15,000 fans per home game.

Unless the NCAA drops or alters the rule when it meets in January, Eastern Michigan, Ball State, Kent State and Buffalo could all lose their Division I-A status, and that would leave the MAC in shambles.

Sun Belt Commissioner Wright Waters is in a similar situation. The Sun Belt had two teams invited to bowl games for the first time, but also has two current and two future teams, Florida Atlantic and Florida International, that did not meet the attendance mark.

Waters can't afford to lose any of those teams or the Sun Belt, which will have eight football members next year when FAU and FIU join, will lose its I-A status since the NCAA requires a conference have a minimum of eight.

So Chryst, Waters, FAU and FIU have a lot riding on the Jan. 10 NCAA Board of Directors meeting at Dallas when the attendance issue will be addressed again. The Board is comprised of 17 Division I school presidents and has the final say over all NCAA legislation.

The rule has been a source of contention since it was adopted two years ago, which is why it is still under review. It was designed to weed out weaker programs and make it tougher for I-AA programs to move up. While support for the rule may have waned, there have not been any strong signals about which direction the Board is leaning.

"There is no way to predict what the Board might do," Waters said. "But I do have confidence in the NCAA process."

That process would allow the nine schools that averaged less than 15,000 fans to file for a waiver if the rule is retained.

If the waiver is not granted, FAU has vowed that its next step would be the courts.

"First and foremost we have to watch out for the interests of FAU," Athletic Director Craig Angelos said. "Everyone has different circumstances. We are brand new. Give us time [to build attendance]. Should we be cut off just because we are four years old?"

FAU and FIU, which just finished its third season, both completed the first year of the two-year transition from Division I-AA to I-A. As part of that, they were expected to meet all I-A requirements.

Both did, except for attendance – FIU averaged 10,095 a game and FAU 10,784.

If the rule is upheld, FAU and FIU would have to repeat their first year, and that would leave their status as a I-A team in doubt.

Under the current penalties, existing teams that fail to meet the mark would be put on a 10-year probation.

Failure to achieve it a second time would result in being banned from postseason play, and a third failure within the probationary period would force them to be reclassified as a I-AA team.

"I don't think there is any way the NCAA is not going to make exceptions for startup teams," FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said. "The [NCAA] is in such dire straits to do what is right and legal they are going to have to make some accommodation to make everyone happy."

Chryst is careful when discussing the possible outcome, and said it is too soon to say whether the MAC might be part of a lawsuit if any of its members are in danger of losing I-A status.

"We've been committed to working within the political structure," Chryst said, and he believes the NCAA will be looking for a solution of appeasement rather than penalty. "The perspective I have is the [Board of Directors] will look for outcomes to keep all of Division I football healthy."

Chryst pointed out that 20 percent of I-A teams switched conferences since the attendance rule was passed.

"I think the goal will be stability and not more instability," he said.

Angelos said FAU has a strong case whether it is in seeking a waiver or filing a lawsuit.

"We are as compelling a story as there is out there – we're winning, we've made a big financial commitment, we're in a growth pattern," Angelos said. "We feel to use a certain level of attendance to gauge support is capricious and arbitrary."

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FAU Attendance articles...

Notice the bold type regarding the MAC teams. This makes me feel better about our situation. Not dwelling on another team's misfortune but the fact that they have been around MUCH longer than FAU and still can't meet the numbers.
I really think they will make concessions for us because of the infancy status. It only makes sense.

I really hope they don't get PO'd because of the litigation talk/threats. We've seen them circle the wagons too many times in the past even though they knew what was the right thing to do.
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The rule has been a source of contention since it was adopted two years ago, which is why it is still under review. It was designed to weed out weaker programs and make it tougher for I-AA programs to move up. While support for the rule may have waned, there have not been any strong signals about which direction the Board is leaning.


Now, I have a problem with that statement about keeping weaker program from moving up. There are 1-A program that have been around for years that struggle with attendance. I don't think you can pin a 1-A programs struggles on attendance alone - I think it has to do with the attitude and direction a particular program has. Attendance does bring in funds into a program, but Alumni's & boosters are also a big part of the success.

There are team at the 1-AA level that are well established and have had success for a very long timeand are content staying at the 1-AA level - just because you are a 1-AA team doesn't make you a weak program, so that statement is rediculous. It comes down to money and the 1-A B.S teams don't want to share the wealth.

I hope this attendance issue suffers a quick and painful death, becau it makes no sense and only hurts the student athletes involved. This is suppose to be about education is it not or is football above all of this. To me if a school can provide more scholarships to give these student athletes a chance at an education they wouldn't normally receive. I think that sometimes the board of director forget about the importance of what the NCAA represents or suppose to represent - education first.
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