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June Ask The Commish-Sun Belt Football

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June Ask The Commish-Sun Belt Football

Football Questions

Question (Steven Ledewitz): Why didn't the football schedule have each conference team going to Florida? The state has a rich tradition of producing very good students who play football. If a coach can promise a high school student they will be able to play before family and friends every year there is a better chance that student will go to school away from home. A schedule that has each conference team playing either FIU or FAU at home and the other on the road will do wonders for conference recruiting in Florida. The same should be done with the two Louisiana schools. The ACC is trying to set their schedule so that no school goes to Florida twice in one football season. The conference is the SUN BELT, so let's give all schools a change to play in the Sunshine State.

Commissioner Wright Waters: Steven, you are absolutely correct. But to make that work for everyone, we need a 9th school playing football. We have such a schedule; it is just a matter of having the team to fill the extra slot.

Question (Tim): Upon reading about the 3 year probation placed on FIU for supervised off-season workouts, will the Sun Belt have any investigations of its own or is the NCAA and self imposed penalties sufficient? Also, any news on Western Kentucky moving conferences or staying in the Gateway in football?

Commissioner Wright Waters: Tim, our staff assisted FIU in their internal investigation and in the preparation of their response. We are very confident that FIU has handled the entire process appropriately and will be stronger for the experience. As for the issues associated with WKU, we have always deferred those questions to WKU.

Question (Jeff Person): Mr. Waters please explain to me the current criteria concerning the attendance figures and remaining in Division 1-A. Please include penalties and probations.

Commissioner Wright Waters: Jeff, as is the case with any compromise, this is going to be a long answer so hold on. An institution must average 15,000 in paid attendance once in every two-year period. Must also have 16 sports, 200 total grants, 90% of the 85 allowable IA grants must be awarded in a two year rolling average and must play 5 IA home games. Now the compromises. Student tickets where students pay a fee or receive a reduced price ticket are counted provided they attend. Tickets discounted off the highest face value not more than 1/3 may be counted and below 1/3 they must be in attendance to count. A school may annually count a IAA opponent as one of the 5 required IA home games every year and may also count one IAA win as a bowl win each year. Trust me there will be more in the months ahead.

Question (Ryan): I was wondering if the Sun Belt had announced a TV schedule for the 2005 football season, including national and regional telecasts.

Commissioner Wright Waters: Ryan, it is really slow this year, partially because of the introduction of ESPNU into the equation. In 2003 the league was on national or regional TV 25 times, that number jumped to 34 in 2004, and I think you will see another significant increase this year. Our national package calls for three games annually, it looks like at least two schools will pick up a national exposure as part of other conference packages. We are currently trying to clear 8-10 games for ESPNU and then we will fill in with our regional package. Thanks to our friends at Cox, Comcast and a few independent stations the regional package reaches about 22 million homes in our footprint.

Question (Derrick Issac): For the 2005 football season, the conference will have eight teams. Are there any schools that might have an interest in joining the conference to bring the conference to at least nine or more teams in the future? Also, do you know any football schools from Division 1-AA that is talking about moving to Division 1-A?

Commissioner Wright Waters: Derrick, the answer to both questions is that I don't anticipate any movement in the near future. But we all need to stay focused that having a 9th team is a convenience not a determinant. With the IAA enhancements and the 12th game playing a 7-team conference schedule has some advantages but it does mean that our schools will have to hustle a little more.

Question (David Laliberte): I have a concern about OOC scheduling for Sun Belt Conference football members. Now that the NCAA Management Council has passed a rule allowing IA institutions to count one IAA game towards bowl eligibility, it seems to me that it will be more difficult for our Conference members to get IA OOC games, either at home or away. If you are a traditional BCS school (even though that designation is becoming meaningless), wouldn't you rather pay a guarantee for a IAA 'patsy' to come to your stadium, take your 'automatic' win, and have it count toward bowl eligibility? Why would you want to risk playing Troy University, or the University of North Texas, for example, when the could well beat you. I'm worried that this legislation was a backdoor way of making it difficult for mid-majors to compete in IA football. Do you see this as a problem for us, and if so, how should our member institutions approach this in scheduling OOC games?

Commissioner Wright Waters: David, I think your logic is correct for the weaker IA programs, of course by playing the IAA they risk losing and upsetting the strength of schedule for the entire league. But for the stronger teams that are hoping to cash in on the BCS dollars, they will continue to play IA opponents. Although the strength of schedule component has been taken out of the computer portion of the BCS formula it is still very much alive and well in the more subjective poll portion. Just ask Auburn.

Question (Joe Judkins): As a Troy University Alum, I am curious to learn the process of scheduling within the conference. It is my understanding that the Conference schedules all conference games and not the individual schools. In looking at our schedule for this season, I am concerned that we are traveling to Louisiana twice this year and will host both South Florida teams in Troy. I understand that previous commitments and conference re-alignment required some "creative scheduling" but in the future is there any chance where teams would travel to one Louisiana school and one S. Florida school every other year? I believe this enhances visiting fans to support their school at both travel sites. However, to ask them to travel to S. Florida/Louisiana twice in the same year will significantly limit visiting fans opportunity and/or flexibility. It may also be a better balance in school travel finances.

Commissioner Wright Waters: Joe, I agree completely and as soon as the games are returned we will try to work out exactly what you are describing. Remember we are in this for the long run so sometimes these things take time, for awhile there we were struggling just to make sure everyone had the right number of games at home.

Question (Oliver Way): I'm following up on my earlier question relative to the relaxing of D1A attendance standards (now based on ticket sales vs. actual attendance) for which you advise that there is more to being D1A than 15k, 200 scholarships, and 16 sports. What would now prevent a Georgia Southern, App State, the whole Southern Conference, Delaware, JMU the whole A10, the Big Sky, and others from declaring themselves D1A if all these schools are prepared to step up to higher scholarship levels, and the higher attendance levels? Given, that a program can now sell discounted (discounted by 70%) tickets vs. having actual 15,000 attendance, it will be easy for those which would not have made the cut to easily make it now. Does that threaten the Sun Belt having these D1AA conferences with much longer football traditions come up to the Sun Belt tier?

Commissioner Wright Waters: Oliver, I don't think these leagues threaten us, our seat at the BCS table is secured and I don't see any expansion of that group in the near future. The issue is really can those schools get 5 IA home games during a two-year transition period without a conference providing them a basic schedule. We were very fortunate as a league in that we have always had a nucleus of teams that have been IA for some time, so while there were transition issues at FIU and FAU, we never had to deal with transition issues at the other schools.

Question (Vic Monroe): Now that we can play 12 football games in 2006.What are the possibilities of having a 9 football playing school for 2006 season? Is it on any future agendas with university administrators? Thank you!

Commissioner Wright Waters: Vic, I just don't see one out there that makes sense. I acknowledge that I would like to have a 9th but it is not so critical that we should consider compromising for just anybody.

Question (Randy): With the changing rules for bowl eligibility beginning in 2006 both the Sun Belt and other 1A conferences should see a dramatic increase in bowl eligible teams. It will be very difficult for Sun Belt teams to secure at large spots especially if the total number of bowls remains at the current 28. How is the Sun Belt progressing in its quest to secure more automatic bowl bids? Is South Florida still a possibility for a second Sun Belt bowl in the future once the new rules are in effect?

Commissioner Wright Waters: Randy, currently all 28 bowls are contracted so the only at-large possibilities will be if someone is not able to fulfill their contractual agreements. The South Florida plans have been put on hold until then everyone is comfortable with the BCS rotation. We continue to explore opportunities but the move to limit the bowls was really a bad decision in my opinion.

Question (Steve Boedeker): Can we have a running list of professional football players listed somewhere on the Sun Belt official site? Personally, I would like to see what current NFL/AFL/CFL players are from the Belt and I would also like to see how we did in the draft/free agency period this year. I know that we had 3 players "drafted" for 2005; but I have read tidbits about 30 or so players that were taken in free agency since the weekend. Any way that we can get a nice list going on the official site so that it is the one stop shop for finding out which players have made it to the next level?

Commissioner Wright Waters: Steve, I will pass along your request to the SID staff that manages the web site. It is a timely request as we are looking at rolling out a new format for the web site on (or about) July 15. It is tied to the Internet streaming agreement.

Question (Tim Fant): Force football on South Alabama!!!!

Commissioner Wright Waters: Commissioners that tell College Presidents or College Boards what to do are not Commissioners very long. You over estimate the powers of the commissioner.

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June Ask The Commish-Sun Belt Football

Teams may need an additional Accounting department to keep up with the attendance rule ::)
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June Ask The Commish-Sun Belt Football

The attendance issue doesn't appear to be such a big issue anymore - however if we plan on having the stadium on campus, it is something that must improve. I would love for us to have 20,000 fans for every game.
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June Ask The Commish-Sun Belt Football

Oh I agree that it probably won't be an issue for us. But looking at his response makes you wonder how teams will keep up with it. The student tickets will take on some very creative marketing.. ;)


Question (Jeff Person): Mr. Waters please explain to me the current criteria concerning the attendance figures and remaining in Division 1-A. Please include penalties and probations.

Commissioner Wright Waters: Jeff, as is the case with any compromise, this is going to be a long answer so hold on. An institution must average 15,000 in paid attendance once in every two-year period. Must also have 16 sports, 200 total grants, 90% of the 85 allowable IA grants must be awarded in a two year rolling average and must play 5 IA home games. Now the compromises. Student tickets where students pay a fee or receive a reduced price ticket are counted provided they attend. Tickets discounted off the highest face value not more than 1/3 may be counted and below 1/3 they must be in attendance to count. A school may annually count a IAA opponent as one of the 5 required IA home games every year and may also count one IAA win as a bowl win each year. Trust me there will be more in the months ahead.
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