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More from Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Wright Waters

WrightWaters Over at MiamiHerald.com, we broke the story late last night that the Sun Belt is strongly considering expanding to an 11th school in football, if certain criteria are met.

In the process of reporting the story, I had a chance to chat with SBC Commish Wright Waters about a wide range of conference-related issues. Here's how the conversation went:

Q: What are your thoughts on possible expansion?

WW: "Well, I think where we are, we’re not afraid to expand if there’s someone out there who will add value to the league, but we're not going expand just to reach some arbitrary number. Conferences expand for one of two reasons: Survival mode or enhancement mode. I think we’re very clearly now in enhancement mode. Ten years ago, we were in the survival mode. I think we’ve got to find people who breing value to the conference."

How would you say the league has improved over the least decade?

"You look at your own needs. I feel pretty good about football. Our attendance is growing. In 2001, the average attendance was a little over 10,000. Today it’s well over 20,000. There was no TV when we started. Roughly 50 percent of games were on some kind of TV last year. I feel good about the direction of football. Our men’s basketball, on the other hand, I have some concerns about. Our presidents have take some very direct steps to improve the quality of the league. Starting next year, teams will not be allowed to play non-Division I teams in their non-conference schedule. And your non-conference schedule has to average 150 or better from a RPI perspective. The plan is also to get more home games. Those things are important to us."

Will there be penalties for teams that defy those rules?

"It was a presidential iniative. Most of the time, when the presidents create something, you don’t need a penalty phase. So there is no penalty phase. But obviously, it’ll be reported when [violated]."

You mentioned television. What's the latest on your TV deal?

"We have 1 year left on our current agreement, and we have the opportunity to reopen rengotiations. We’re in progress of doing that. I’ve done enough TV deals that it’s not done until it’s done. We have very cordial, very collegial conversations with ESPN. It's good time to be doing it with the landscape right now."

Your conference has a bunch of Tuesday night games this year. Is there any thought to doing what the MAC did a few years back, and make a certain night -- say Wednesdays -- 'The Sun Belt Night' on ESPN?

"The problem is, it’s difficult from a national TV perspective to find out a particular day, because there’s so many conferences vying for other days. The whole midweek game, Monday throught Wednesday game creates scheduling problem, because in essence, it creates two open dates. I don’t know where we’ll end up with that."

Overall, what do you think about Sun Belt's place in college athletics?

"I think the biggest thing is this not your father’s sun Belt Conference anymore. The changes over the last 10, 12 years, with a different group of schools, a lot of good things are going on. A lot of the decisions made in the early 2000s are now coming back to help us. We’re not one of the leagues that are panicked."


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