Sun Belt Conference Moving Forward Following Annual Spring Meetings
SANDESTIN, Fla. – With a commitment to excellence being the striking theme the Sun Belt Conference concluded its annual spring meetings in Sandestin, Florida on Wednesday.
Over the course of the four day meetings officials and coaches discussed important matters to the league and met with various groups.
“I thought this was a tremendous meeting,” said Sun Belt Commissioner Wright Waters. “There was a great focus on national issues and while discussion was tense, it was honest and always with the aim of improving the conference. I thank the Sun Belt Conference Presidents and Chancellors for their continued involvement. I also must thank the student-athletes that we were fortunate to have here with us for Tuesday’s Honors Banquet. Our student-athletes serve as a constant reminder of how great intercollegiate athletics is and what our mission is.”
“I continue to be very proud of our student-athletes,” said Sun Belt Conference President Dr. Jack Hawkins of Troy. “From an academic standpoint we are doing incredible work as evidence by the improvement in league-wide APR scores. From a competitive standpoint we continue to excel as evidence by our success on the field.”
The Sun Belt Conference’s annual meetings include the senior staff of the conference office along with each member school’s Chief Executive Officer, Faculty Athletic Representative, Athletic Director, Senior Woman Administrator, Head Football Coach, Head Men’s Basketball Coach and Head Women’s Basketball Coach.
Prominent topics of discussion included increased television exposure for the Sun Belt Conference, officiating, Sun Belt Conference scheduling, services that the conference provides to its member institutions and championships.
Sun Belt Conference Television Exposure
The Sun Belt Conference is committed to a strong television package on the national and regional levels. Proof of this comes in the fact that since the 2005-06 season the league has gone from having 30 broadcast events through its television partners to 72 partner events in the 2010-11 season. As a whole Sun Belt Conference member institutions made 160 total television appearances this season.
Representatives from ESPN as well as the league’s regional television partners, Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS) and Cox Sports Television (CST), were in attendance at the annual league meetings. These television executives spent time with the league’s leadership and expressed commitment to furthering the league’s television product and exposure.
Sun Belt Conference Officiating
Also in attendance at the annual league meeting were Sun Belt Conference officials’ coordinators Don Lucas (football), Mike Wood (men’s basketball) and Sally Bell (women’s basketball). Each coordinator met with their respective coaches group as well as league athletic directors.
Currently the Sun Belt Conference uses XOS in football for official reviews and instant replay system takes in five inputs at once for review by the officials. The conference provides all of the following to each school: one set top box to take in and record all five inputs, XOS instant replay software, remote control for replay system, monitors, goal line cameras, training for instant replay system and an instant replay system support. Starting in the 2011 football season the following upgrades are being made conference wide: install two new HD capable goal line pan-tilt-zoom camera systems and Install two new SDI/Analog HD monitors.
The XOS instant replay system for basketball operates with a unit sitting courtside on the scorer’s table. XOS replay is capable of taking the TV production feed, in-house production feed or simply the coaches camera feed allowing for complete flexibility. There is a second, fixed camera in each facility which provides a shot/game clock image which is inserted into the video allowing for accurate determinations of timing infractions and the technician simply uses a handheld push-button to mark points that could potentially be reviewed. If at any time a referee would like to review a play, the technician cues that mark and operates the system using controls that are much like a VCR or DVR.
Included among the Sun Belt Conference’s roster of officials are those who have worked both men’s and women’s Final Fours in basketball and bowl game officials in football.
Sun Belt Conference Scheduling
Another topic of conversation was the future of league scheduling as Denver departs the Sun Belt Conference after the 2011-12 season and South Alabama begins Sun Belt play in football in 2012.
Representatives of Sun Belt Conference member institutions have already approved an eight game conference football that will be effective for the 2012 season. Each of the 10 teams will play four home and four away games each season and will never miss a game against its natural rival. League representatives approved on Wednesday a nine game conference schedule beginning in the 2015 season with each team playing each other.
Sun Belt Conference Services Provided
Officials from the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and GoDaddy.com Bowl were also present and expressed their excitement about being involved with the Sun Belt Conference now and in the future. The Sun Belt Conference is a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Conference and a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
Alex Smith, the Associate Director for Academic and Membership Affairs at the NCAA, was also in attendance at the league meeting. Smith’s involvement with the Sun Belt Conference membership was to bring national collegiate athletics issues into discussion as well as discuss new NCAA legislation.
In follow-up to the Sun Belt Conference’s strategic plan for men’s basketball that was announced in October, 2010 the league has enlisted the help of Winthrop Intelligence, a group committed to using database tools to help optimize financial decision making in budget planning, contract negotiations, trend analysis and benchmarking. Winthrop Intelligence’s partnership with the Sun Belt Conference will focus on increasing ticket sales, attendance and donorship to the league’s men’s basketball programs.
Additionally Dominick Giambrone, Sun Belt Conference Assistant Commissioner for Compliance and Education Services, met with league Faculty Athletic Representatives and Senior Woman Administrators on topics related to academics in collegiate athletics. Discussion ranged from Academic Progress Rates, Graduation Success Rate and tutoring and mentorship.
“We met and reviewed 5-year trends and historical data regarding APR at length,” said Giambrone. Specific focus was aimed at the number of both two and four year transfers as well as analyzing academic at-risk student-athletes.”
Sun Belt Conference Leadership
Dr. Jack Hawkins, chancellor of Troy University, will continue his two-year term as president of the Sun Belt Conference Executive Committee. The slate of officers for 2011-12, in addition to Hawkins, is: Vice President – Gordon Moulton, president, South Alabama; Past President - Dr. Sidney McPhee, president, Middle Tennessee; At-Large Representative – Joel Anderson, chancellor, UALR; Athletics Directors Representative – Dean Lee, Arkansas State; Faculty Athletics Representative – James Brown, Western Kentucky; Senior Woman Administrators Representative – Cinnamon Sheffield, North Texas.
Sun Belt Conference Championships
The following 2013-2014 future championship sites were also determined:
Cross Country – Troy
Soccer – North Texas
Volleyball – Middle Tennessee
Tennis – South Alabama
Softball – North Texas
Indoor Track and Field – Middle Tennessee
The 2013 Sun Belt Conference Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships were also awarded to Louisiana-Lafayette. Denver, which will be departing the Sun Belt Conference at the end of the 2011-12 season, was originally slated to host that championship.