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Sun Belt will fight for FIU and FAU

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Sun Belt will fight for FIU and FAU

Good to know we have some backup with the attendance issue. I honestly believe both schools would at least be MUCH closer to the 15,000 mark had we not had games postponed and cancelled.

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Sun Belt will fight for FAU and FIU

By Ted Hutton
Staff Writer
Posted November 30 2004

Florida Atlantic and Florida International can count on Sun Belt Commissioner Wright Waters to lobby the NCAA to drop or alter the rule regarding minimum attendance for Division I-A teams.

The Sun Belt has a lot at stake, since FAU and FIU are scheduled to join next season and give the conference the eight members it needs to stay viable. Three of the nine current teams are leaving for the Western Athletic Conference after this season.

"I don't think schools should be held accountable for something that is beyond their control," Waters said about the 15,000-average in home attendance the NCAA now requires for teams to move up to or remain in Division I-A.

Waters is especially concerned since current members Middle Tennessee State and Louisiana-Monroe each averaged less than 15,000 this season, putting their status as I-A teams in jeopardy if the rule remains in place.

The Sun Belt needs eight football members to be recognized by the NCAA.

FAU and FIU have already met the other criteria for I-A membership, including providing 200 total scholarships and sponsoring a minimum of 16 varsity sports, but FIU has already missed the attendance mark, and FAU will likely join them unless the Owls can draw 37,341 to Saturday's game against FIU at Pro Player Stadium.

FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger sees the issue as a Catch-22.

"When we get to the level where we can play teams like Oklahoma State, then we will get the crowds we need," Schnellenberger said, referring to next season's tentative home opener against the Cowboys.

Wright said in addition to arguing that weather and other factors that a university cannot control influence attendance, the attendance rule also could have negative impact in other areas.

Schools that fail to meet the minimum attendance two years in a row will be put on restricted status and not be eligible for a bowl, and Waters said that could be used against those schools in recruiting, further weakening them.

Another result could be more coaches being fired.

"Two proven ways to draw more fans are winning and changing coaches," Waters said, "and many schools may choose the latter because that is easier."

FIU and FAU are the only two schools currently in the two-year transition phase, and how they will be treated by the NCAA is unclear.

They both are required to make a presentation to a subcommittee that oversees transition teams to show that they have met the criteria.

If they have not, they will have to repeat the first year over again, meaning they would not become eligible for a bowl until 2006 instead of 2005, as long as they reach the minimum attendance next season.

Another alternative, if the Board of Directors leaves the attendance limit in place, is to make an appeal to the NCAA Administrative Review Subcommittee and argue that extraordinary circumstances contributed to not meeting the goal.

"I think if neither of us make it we have legitimate appeals," FIU Athletic Director Rick Mello said, citing the hurricanes that canceled one of FIU's games and forced FIU and FAU to each postpone another.

"I've got to believe there is a good chance they could be successful," Wright said about potential appeals.

Ted Hutton can be reached at [email protected]

Panthers on the Rise
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Sun Belt will fight for FIU and FAU


I personally can't see the rule lasting much longer. The reason is because the number is so arbitrary. Why 15,000? Why not 13,000 or 14,651? Another reason is because of conferences like the Sun Belt and WAC, MAC, etc. need schools in order to compete. Next year if the rule stays the Sun Belt would be in danger of having only 4 eligible schools.

Good point on the hurricane situation. That has to be taken into consideration. I know FIU had high hopes for a big crowd in their opener and that was postponed. Many people in Palm Beach were effected by the storms so Im sure that hurt FAU's attendance. Any reasonable organization would take this into account, but we are talking about the NCAA. Let's make this a moot point by filling up PPS on Saturday. It'll be tough, but let's give it a shot. If the game draws over 25,000 it sends a message that both schools are viable for 1-A play. GO OWLS!
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Sun Belt will fight for FIU and FAU

I personally agree. I know for a fact that even though FIU averages less then 15,000 fans per game we still make a profit by having a football program, so why should we be limited just because of that rule?

I do think if the rule is kept they will grant us some amnesty on the rule simply because of the hurricane situations. At FIU we had our home opener postponed and the game with the concert postponed which really hurt because that's where we spent our advertising money. In FAU's case, you guys were hit harder by storms so not everyone could come out to games and you're home opener was postponed which would have drawn big numbers because you had won those three road games in a row and you had a lot of hype.

Panthers on the Rise
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Sun Belt will fight for FIU and FAU

Good info Maxx. Now we need to wait and see what happens with the NCAA. They do have a way of confounding issues while everyone else thinks it is very clear.

I still say their initial effort to avoid watered down" talent of teams movng up" and existing teams from improving to remain in D1-A, was a disguise to keep the top BCS teams happy and rich. Condense the playing field during bowl bids.
Then they go and create TWO additional bowls after this ruling :o
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