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Sun Belt Conference cracks down on non-conference games to boost attendance

Sun Belt Makes Moves to Improve RPI
Sun Belt Makes Moves to Improve RPI
Sun Belt

The Sun Belt Conference wants to eliminate non-Division 1 games from its basketball schedule.

For the past few years, Sun Belt teams played 22 games against non-Division 1 teams. This put the Sun Belt third out of 31 conferences for most non Div-1 opponents.

Looking toward the RPI rankings, there is a feeling among the Sun Belt ADs and presidents that this has hurt the overall league's chances to get more television exposure and ratings.

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.

In recent years Sun Belt Conference men's basketball has struggled to maintain a level of consistency that is acceptable amongst the league's university presidents.

Furthermore, the general lack of quality in the league has led to teams in the Sun Belt Conference missing out on opportunities for financial gains and recognition from the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament and from ticket sales.

It is widely agreed amongst Sun Belt Conference leadership that there is urgency for improvement and that there are certain steps that can be followed to get to an improved men's basketball league.

Other changes anticipated are

Attendance and Season Ticket Sales
NCAA Division I national average for attendance was 5,038 patrons per game and no Sun Belt Conference had a higher average than the national average last season. Only one member institution has averaged over 5,000 patrons per game over the last five seasons.

Therefore, 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.

Sun Belt Conference Director of Basketball Operations
To evaluate and advise the Sun Belt Conference, it was agreed that a Director of Basketball Operations for the league be given a one year appointment. Lee Fowler will act as a consultant to the league. Fowler spent the previous ten years as the Athletics Director at North Carolina State where, in 2002, he chaired the prestigious NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee after serving on the committee since 1997. Fowler previously served as the Athletics Director at Middle Tennessee and was a letterman on the Vanderbilt men's basketball team. Additionally, he served as an assistant basketball coach at both Vanderbilt and Memphis.

Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell said of the changes:

This is an important policy action by our Conference presidents. As important as all of our Conference sports are, NCAA men's basketball represents our league's best chance at national prestige and our best chance for revenue growth. The Conference is as strong as its member institutions allow it to be. Every member institution must play at a sufficient level to give the leading programs in any given year the best shot at multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament. Scheduling and the RPI are at the core of this goal. The more teams we get in, the better our chances of playing deeper into the tournament and earning multiple shares of revenue-- which are then distributed to all league members. These policies are aimed at strengthening our NCAA Basketball value for our fans and capturing a larger share of the NCAA revenue distribution.

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