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League Announces Changes; Elimination of Non DI Games

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League Announces Changes; Elimination of Non DI Games

With some concern over downward trending in Conference RPI and strenth of schedule, the league Presidents have voteds to enact some changes, effective with the start of next season (2011-12).

These are all good things, IMO.

The 150 Rule

The core component in the new standards for men’s basketball non-conference scheduling is the expectation that each Sun Belt Conference member institution will ensure that its men’s basketball program competes in the top half of NCAA Division I.  An institution must meet this standard in one of two ways.  First, an institution can meet this standard if the average three year RPI of its opponents on its non-conference schedule is equal to 150 or lower.  An institution can also meet the standard by finishing with an institutional RPI of 150 or better at the end of the season.

This standard, known as “The 150 Rule”, is not new to the Sun Belt Conference – in fact it had previously been implemented during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons.  During those two seasons the Sun Belt Conference saw higher numbers in non-conference win percentage (58% in 2004-05), average institutional RPI (135 in 2004-05), league RPI (12 in 2004-05), average schedule strength (151 in 2004-05) and average attendance (3,351 in 2003-04) than any other season over the past seven seasons.

Non-Conference Scheduling Opportunities

The Sun Belt Conference is in continuing discussion with a similar conference regarding non-conference scheduling opportunities.  This would provide each member institution in the league with one home and one away game per season with a member of that conference.  Additionally, the league is in continuing discussions with other conferences in the Sun Belt footprint that would result in one home and one away game per year with members of these conferences.

Elimination of non-Division I Games

Over the last several years teams from the Sun Belt Conference have routinely played games against opponents outside of NCAA Division I.  In fact, the Sun Belt Conference played a league record 22 games against non-Division I schools in 2009-10 – a number that ranked the Sun Belt third out of 31 Division I conferences for most non-Division I opponents.  While competition against non-Division I opponents is not a direct factor in RPI numbers, the scheduling of these games has taken away opportunities to schedule more competitive Division I games.  Additionally, scheduling non-Division I opponents is generally met with a negative attitude by the NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection committee and could damage a team’s NCAA postseason tournament résumé.

Attendance and Season Ticket Sales

During the 2009-10 men’s basketball season the NCAA Division I national average for attendance was 5,038 patrons per game.  No member institution from the Sun Belt Conference had a higher average than the national average last season.  Furthermore, only one member institution has averaged over 5,000 patrons per game over the last five seasons.  It is generally agreed that attendance is a measurement of the public’s satisfaction with a program.  Moreover, the inability to sell tickets results in lost financial opportunities that could have been used to further a program’s success.

The Sun Belt Conference will begin to assist with season ticket sales beginning next season by establishing a new initiative.  The Sun Belt Conference will create a promotional season ticket holder contest and provide each host institution with the incentives, marketing tools, strategies, and resources on how to increase their overall season ticket holder base.  This new initiative will also act as a referral and rewards program for season ticket holders and future season ticket holders.

Source: Sun Belt Media Relations
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