Nov. 20, 2003
Boca Raton - Florida Atlantic University President Frank T. Brogan addressed the members of the media and the Sun Belt Conference Expansion Committee at the exploratory meeting November 20, 2003. Sun Belt Conference representatives included: Wright Waters, Commissioner; Modesto "Mitch Madique, CEO Florida International; Dale Adams, Faculty Athletic Representative the University of South Alabama; Nelson Schexnayder, Athletics Director, University of Louisiana; Diane Turnham, Senior Women's Administrator, Middle Tennessee State University; Craig Angelos, AD Florida Atlantic University; Dorthy LeLand, Faculty Athletic Representative, Florida Atlantic University.
"I want to thank the members of the expansion committee and the Sun Belt Conference representatives. Florida Atlantic University is very pro8ud f its athletic traditions. We are proud of our entire University. As it relates to both, we believe we are destined to move to a new level and build on the history and the hard work of the people who came before us and now take the opportunity to advance the entire University on the academic side and on the athletic side. For those who have followed us the last eight months or so, you know that we are reorganizing, making changes, and that is no different in the world of athletics at Florida Atlantic University. We have had a long and outstanding affiliation with the Atlantic Sun Conference and we will continue to have the affiliation with the A-Sun Conference. But, we know that is the world of intercollegiate football, that operating as an independent is a really difficult thing to do and to try to find a schedule that suites the caliber of play that you want to provide as an independent is really difficult and so conference affiliation in the area of intercollegiate football is very important to us.
In our particular case, we believe the national realignment has provided us with the opportunity to begin a conversation with our friends at the Sun Belt Conference, a widely regarded conference already, feeling some of the effects the realignment themselves and looking at it as an opportunity for growth and development on their own part and possible reconstruction for membership. That has brought us to this point where as President Modesto "Mitch" Madique mentioned a requirement for consideration into the Sun Belt Conference so a visit from the commissioner and members of the committee to look at us, not only in terms of facilities, but in terms of vision for the future of the athletic program here at Florida Atlantic University. Football has been zeroed in on. 'We might be an appropriate fit for the Sun Belt Conference for realignment purposes and membership.' We are delighted that they are here. Mr. President, Mr. Commissioner, and committee members, I hope that you found the excitement here that you thought you might find when you ventured to Boca Raton and we will certainly continue our discussions with your right up to the ultimate vote."
One of the great aspects of the Sun Belt has to do with affiliation and partner schools. We are all operating on tight budgets these days. We are all trying to find ways to compete at a high level, but need to do it in a cost efficient manner as well as create a greater opportunity through partnership and rivalry. One of the beauties of the Sun Belt, not just for us, but for others, is the fact that it creates almost a natural partnership for almost all of the schools by way of travel companion and rivalry. Our sister school just to the south and if you look across the existing and potential members of the Sun Belt the natural rivalry/partnership that gives you the economy of scale for travel purposes as well as the excitement of the natural rivalry, which makes this an even more attractive possibility for Florida Atlantic University. We are excited about the possibility of an affiliation, knowing there are still miles to go before any final decisions are made, but we would say to our brethren at the Sun Belt that if it is ultimately decided that Florida Atlantic University's football program is the right fit, that on behalf of all of us that the Sun Belt would be all the better off as a result of that between what our athletic program has done, but in this particular case what Coach Schnellenberger, his staff and his players have accomplished at this University now and we know what they will accomplish in the future. Again, on your behalf we hope that you will see that this University is exciting, has a great vision for the future as to where we want to go and how we want to get there and a great program of intercollegiate play that not on only on the athletic side but will build promise in the 21st century. Thanks again for all of you for being here."
Sun Belt Commissioner Wright Waters
"We have found Florida Atlantic to be an incredible university. It is what we expected. There is an excitement here and a commitment to excellence that we anticipated, but the opportunity to see it up close and personal has been very gratifying to all of us. We are a league that is committed not to be one dimensional and fore thought. I think that people who are committed to being successful in Division I athletics, this day and age, has moved beyond the point of being one dimensional. So for what we need from a football program is one that has all the trappings of greatness. What Coach Schnellenberger has brought and built here is something to be very proud of. It was important for us to see the commitment to the other sports, so it has been a wonderful visit."
Open to the floor
Question: Can you talk about the questions you ask on an expansion visit?
Waters: "Probably the best way to describe it, is by who is here. We essentially bring the four primary governing groups as our representatives: the CEO, the faculty athletic representative, the athletic director, and a senior women's administrator. The SWA in our league is responsible for the student athlete welfare. We have spent an awful of time today looking at issues of academic support, visiting with the student athlete advisory board. What a great group of young people you have here. I'm just here to make sure everyone gets on the plane on time."
Question: How interested have the presidents been in the potential movement of teams?
Waters: "We saw some of that coming 18 months ago. I think we all knew once the ACC dominoes started, that sooner or later it would affect us. So 18 months ago, we expanded our situation out west with the idea that if...if realignment did impact us we would be able to take care of the western schools. If it didn't we would have enough western volume that we would be able to reduce some of the travel costs. Where we are now is that everyone thinks New Mexico State and Utah State will go to the WAC before this is all over with. University of Denver is an incredible institution. What they have done with the athletic department and the entire university, but we will certainly be loyal to the University of Denver, I'm not trying to kick them out the door, but we certainly understand that they may be happier somewhere else rather than getting on a plane and coming east all the time. What is happening ultimately nation wide will probably be better for every body. We are all going to have a better geographic fit. It will probably take some people a little while to figure out who is on first and what's on second. But, ultimately it will be better.
Question: Talk about the numbers. Even with FAU the Sun Belt would be at seven schools
Waters: "There will be one more move. The travel partner for North Texas is probably tied up in the TCU decision. TCU is in the middle of a wonderful undefeated season. They will probably, they have two more games counting the one tonight, you will then see a decision. After that decision, it will come down to completing the puzzle. That would give us the eight required teams. Then the issue is do we do something else with a football only member. In an ideal world you would like to have nine football members to give everyone four home and four away games, which is a very manageable number."
Question: What is FIU's status as far as football?
Modesto Madique: "We have been for some time been considering a move to I-A. The decision to invite FAU, which we will settle on in the next couple of weeks, will have an impact on our own decision. We did not go into football to be a I-AA school. It is a question of timing. Timing depends, in part, to budget. So we are very careful to look at our budget. We made a commitment to our faculty, not to take any money off the top from education to fund football. That imposes a real challenge for us and we are working through that. We don't have an announcement at this point."
Waters:From the prospectus of the conference and FIU, the new regulations from the NCAA the criteria has made it almost impossible to make that move without having a conference to make that schedule. As a league, we have both FIU and Western Kentucky, a very good I-AA team. Division I-A is an institutional decision. It is there decision to make.
Question: To Craig Angelos or President Brogan. Are you ready financially?
Frank Brogan: "The move to the Sun Belt is a good one financially. Not only do we think there is a potential to generate additional revenue by affiliation, but the conference might guarantee you a higher profiled schedule with more Division I-A conference teams on the schedule. We also think that it will be a form of a wash, as I mentioned travel partners schedule, with most of the teams east of the Mississippi. Relative to additional cost, I think it will be very reasonable. The additional cost will be quickly off-set by the advantage of belonging to a conference and a conference that is high profile in terms of schedule.
"We have talked around it a little bit, not intentionally, but, there are two other things out there. One is the issue of I-A status, the other is our current affiliation in all sports in the A-Sun Conference. Just so you know I'm an honest broker, we have been in regular discussions with A-Sun relative to the A-Sun not having football. It is not a football conference so they would wish us well on our football move. But we have also talked about the possibility, at some point, all sports following football into the Sun Belt as an all-sport package. But, we would not move all other sports until, in our mind, it would not put the A-Sun at a relative disadvantage as it relates to continues affiliation as it relates to the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for conference champion in men's basketball. That requires that you have a certain number of schools continuously affiliated for a period of time. If in fact, Troy State has already left and UCF leaves and then we were to leave, that may have the potential of disrupting that automatic bid. That is a big deal to a conference. Not just in terms of integrity and creditability, but financially that is a major concern. Commissioner Waters, of the Sun Belt, has been very gracious to us on that score by allow us to keep separate the discussion of football versus all sports. I have made the commitment to the A-Sun, not to put them into jeopardy, by our departure. They have been a good conference for this university. We have been loyal members and they have been loyal to us. In regards to the other issue of I-A status and how it relates to us, we need to make sure that move is right to us. We will conduct a feasibility study to make sure all the numbers add up and the possibilities are right for the university before we embark on the journey.