The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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New NCAA rule threatens universities’ Division I-A standing

The NCAA has formed a new rule this season for all football programs in Division I-A that requires the schools to meet a minimum attendance of 15,000 fans per each home game. The penalty for not meeting this new number could include having the program’s Division I-A status taken away.

SMU is one of only 117 universities to have a Division I-A football program. Being in this classification allows SMU many advantages, such as the ability to offer scholarships provided by the NCAA to top recruits.

In light of the new attendance rule, SMU might experience trouble holding its status based on the attendance at home games, a problem that would be detrimental to the program.

“We intend to compete at the highest level and win at the highest level, and that is Division I-A,” said Shawn Heilbron, athletic marketing director at SMU.

The players also recognized the importance of being in a Division I-A category, which is a big plus during the recruitment process and something they all look at.

“If you want to play football at the college level, you want to go to a Division I school,” said Jeff Henderson, a senior football player.

The NCAA has named 10 colleges so far this season that do not meet their new attendance requirement. SMU was not included on the list. These colleges are on shaky ground and are feeling their Division I status jeopardized. San Jose State University says that if its status is taken away it could ruin all of its sports programs, not just the football team.

A university that does not fill this requirement now has until the 2004 season to raise its attendance level, or it will automatically be dropped into a lower division.

However, there might be a loophole for SMU, just in case attendance does not meet the 15,000 mark every game. The NCAA might consider including the attendance level of the whole conference, and if it meets the requirements, the schools could maintain their status. Some schools are trying to get around the rule now by doing a head count at the tailgating and including that number in their game attendance.

NCAA officials say that the purpose of the new rule is not to hurt the athletic departments, but to give college football programs a boost and ensure that the universities are investing in their athletics. Many universities have responded by hiring marketing companies to raise morale and increase attendance and spirit at the games.

SMU’s associate athletic director, Barb Totzke, said that a school’s Division I status “is one of the strongest marketing tools a school can offer when recruiting.”

And although SMU has not come under NCAA scrutiny yet, attendance levels have proved to be a problem in the past and could now have severe consequences. Still, the program remains optimistic that it will maintain its Division I-A status and continue to improve the program.

“They [the coaching staff] are going to get us where we want to be: a winning Division I-A program,” Heilbron said.

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