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18 July 2007
Gamecocks Begin Looking into Feasibility of Move
to Top Echelon of College Football

Jacksonville State head football coach Jack Crowe will be part of a five-man exploratory committee that will explore the feasibility of the Gamecocks’ football program moving up to the NCAA Bowl Subdivision, or D-I. Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star

By Al Muskewitz
Star Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

JACKSONVILLE — The committee looking at Jacksonville State’s potential to move into the highest level of college football began its due diligence Tuesday, but the prospect of any imminent move may have hit a big roadblock.

On Monday, JSU’s board of trustees formed an exploratory committee to determine the feasibility of moving into the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-A.

The five-man group, headed by board of trustee member Jim Coxwell and including head football coach Jack Crowe and athletics director Jim Fuller, has been asked to submit its findings at the next board meeting, Oct. 15.

The Gamecocks have been in the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-AA, since 1995 and currently play in the Ohio Valley Conference.

For them to move anywhere, there has to be an opening at an available conference, and the league being talked about most for JSU is the Sun Belt Conference.

Coxwell said Monday there had been contact with the Sun Belt Conference, but JSU athletic director Jim Fuller talked with Sun Belt commissioner Wright Waters Tuesday and was told there is no room and there has been no contact before Tuesday their talk on Tuesday.

“He said he hadn’t discussed this with anybody, that nobody talked with him or his office,” Fuller said. “He said we have ‘X’ number of schools in our conference in basketball (and) ‘X’ in football, ours are working well and we’re not going out soliciting anybody or looking at anybody. They’re fine where they sit.”

Coxwell said he didn’t have the contact with Sun Belt officials, but was present when it took place. He didn’t identify who was in the conversation.

“(Waters) said there are no openings right now, but you don’t ever know what’s going to happen,” Coxwell said. “There are some things fixin’ to happen. He didn’t elaborate.”

Waters, a former assistant of Crowe’s at Livingston in the early 1970s, couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

University president Bill Meehan called the discussion “very, very preliminary.” Crowe called any talk of moving “very premature.”

Meehan is particularly interested in the cost of such a move.

The Gamecocks would have to meet a number of criteria to join the Football Bowl Subdivision, including a 30,000-seat stadium, average ticket sales of 17,500 and have a specific number of coaches on staff. Coxwell believes the program is on track to meet those requirement. They also would have to finance an additional 22 scholarships.

“We need to be careful,” Meehan said. “We want to make sure we make the right decision.”

If the Gamecocks did move up, it would be all over for them in the Ohio Valley Conference across the board.

The OVC showed Western Kentucky the door when the Hilltoppers wanted to upgrade their football lot but keep everything else in the league, and Meehan would fully expect the same fate to befall JSU. As a member of the conference, he said, “I wouldn’t be interested in having another school in the OVC that didn’t have all its sports in the OVC.”

Meehan said Tuesday JSU is “very happy” with the OVC, but did speak with OVC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher immediately after the board meeting and wrote every OVC president to inform them of the situation.

Steinbrecher said he would do everything he could to help the Gamecocks gather the information they need to make “a sound and educated decision.”

“I think it’s too early to decide or tell what they’re doing,” Steinbrecher said. “There’s obviously a core of individuals who are interested in exploring what membership at the FBS level would entail, so that’s the task at hand.”

Since news of the issue leaked, Coxwell said he has received “nothing but positive feedback,” especially from his alumni group. He “has a theory” the move would be good for JSU for recruiting, player morale and financial reasons, but will still wait for the results of the study.

“I think our people want it,” he said. “I guess it’s just something you always want to do. Whether it’s right or not, I really don’t know. I hope it is, but if it’s not, we’ll have to go another avenue.

“We’ve got to be right. We don’t want to do something that’s going to hurt the school or our football program. We want to have a positive step instead of a negative step.”

He said the committee should have a “pretty good” idea of where it stands in a couple months.

About Al Muskewitz

Al Muskewitz covers golf and Jacksonville State University sports teams for the Star.

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