Official Sun Belt RPI men’s basketball policy

25 10 2010

Per league release: (And to clarify, there are no official penalties in play for this policy at moment. Schools will be self-policing with regard to the policy).

*Sun Belt Conference Announces Strategic Plan for Men’s Basketball *

NEW ORLEANS – The Sun Belt Conference announced today wide sweeping changes
to non-conference scheduling and oversight for its men’s basketball teams.
The set of standards will begin with the 2011-12 men’s basketball season.

The announcement comes after numerous discussions amongst the Sun Belt
Conference’s league presidents. Concern amongst the group about the quality
of the league’s men’s basketball teams has been mounting following
inconsistent and downward trending Rating Percentage Index (RPI) and
Strength of Schedule (SOS) numbers over the past several seasons.

*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.

* *

*Sun Belt Conference Director of Basketball Operations*

In order to properly evaluate and advise the Sun Belt Conference member
institutions, it was agreed that a Director of Basketball Operations for the
league be given a one year appointment. The conference has appointed Lee
Fowler to 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.

*Moratorium on Discussion*

As it has been hotly debated over the last several years, the discussion of
men’s basketball non-conference scheduling will be limited over the next
four seasons following the enactment of the new standards for the 2011-12
season.

* *

*Summary*

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.

*Sun Belt Conference President and Troy University Chancellor Dr. Jack
Hawkins, Jr.*

“This is a common-sense move for our league’s leadership if we are serious
about returning our men’s basketball to the level of national esteem it once
held. In the decade of the 1980s Sun Belt Conference men’s basketball
received 41 post-season bids compared to just 19 over the last decade. Our
students, alumni and fans of our basketball teams deserve programs that set
high standards.”

*Sun Belt Conference Athletics Director Chair and ULM Athletics Director
Bobby Staub*

“It has been a discussion point around the conference to identify measures
that will address RPI and other ranking indices. These are strategic
initiatives that will aggressively reposition our league and in turn
hopefully increase the Sun Belt Conference’s post-season opportunities. This
places a challenge before our programs, but with a clear benefit to be
potentially realized.”

*Sun Belt Conference Executive Committee At-Large Representative and UALR
Chancellor Dr. Joel Anderson*

“The steps we are taking to improve the level of play for men’s basketball
will be beneficial to all campuses in the Sun Belt Conference. Our
student-athletes ought to have the best possible athletics experience, and
these measures will ensure challenging and competitive seasons. I expect
great things from the Conference’s commitment to men’s basketball.”

*Western Kentucky University President Dr.** Gary** Ransdell*

“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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