Saturday, July 27, 2013

MAC Commissioner Dr. Steinbrecher's Media Day press conference quotes

Mid-American Conference Commissioner asked many questions during his Media Day press conference Tuesday at Ford Field. I planned on delving into the specifics on the future of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, but CM Life's Aaron McMann beat me to the punch there. It was clearly one of the questions on everyone's mind. Here is what Steinbrecher had to say about that plus many other topics.

Commissioner, there has been a lot of talk about the future of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl going forward. Do you see there being a Pizza Bowl in 2014?
"That is a good question. Little Caesars Pizza Bowl has been a wonderful partner with the Mid-American Conference and we are grateful to be associated with it. I know Ken Hoffman ((LCPB CEO & Executive Director) and his staff are working together to see what they can do to put together a game. We're interested in being in bowl games, so we're interested in talking to folks who want to put on bowl games. If Ken is able to bring something forward, then we will engage in that conversation."

There has been discussion of possibly playing a game at Comerica Park. Do you see that as feasible? 

Thoughts on the new illegal contact rules that result in ejection?
"I want hits from the shoulders down. I want the head and neck out of it. I think we would all agree that is where some danger comes into it. Using the crown of your helmet. That is what we have to get out of the game. That's the challenge that we are facing here. I would argue that any hit we see where a defender wraps up the ball carrier is more or less a legal hit. The hits that we are focusing on are the ones that go high with a shoulder or elbow or lead with the head."

Regarding the stipend issue, does the MAC have an official preference or blueprint they want to explore?
"It would be disingenuous of me to say that we don't have concerns from a financial point of view. But we also recognize that the higher revenue institutions have some pressures on them and we're going to have to figure out a way to come to grips with that. We don't have an official stance on this, but personally I'd like to explore some need-based models. But I'll engage in whatever the discussion is and we'll go from there."

So you feel there is enough support nationally that this has to be dealt with one way or the other?
"I think we recognize there is an issue here. We need to quit kicking the can down the road. We need to sit down and figure out a solution that is viable."

What is your reaction to the comments made by the commissioners of the Big 12 and ACC seeing the future of power conference schools being in super divisions? And how could that potentially impact MAC football?
"I'm not sure if that is completely what they said. I think they got there, but I think they said that is kind of a last resort. They are looking for a system in which their views can be clearly articulated and we can address them. We have not had that system for some time. So I say let's play it out and get our governance system working. We need to get our ADs much more engaged than they have been in the past. That's been a problem. When we went to the representative form of governance, what the various conferences did is that they had one or two ADs on the various cabinets or counsels. Every other AD in the room kind of signed off to them. You guys handle it. I need 13 ADs engaged in what the national issues are. I also need my presidents engaged as well as senior representatives. But particularly we need the ADs engaged. I think if we do that, we can take care of the issues."

Big 12 Commissioner Bowlsby said specifically that Texas and NIU aren't alike. Do you see a line being drawn in the sand?
"He actually said Northern Iowa. You know what? There is no doubt. There is great diversity from the top of Division I to the bottom of Division I. I would also argue that in the higher revenue conferences, there is great diversity in those conferences. It's part of what we do and it's our job to manage that. I would suggest that yeah there are differences in how much revenue they are generating and what they are spending, but I think we have shown in a few of the examples I have talked about is that we are able to go out there and compete. The question is whether we can come to agreement on a set of rules that allows us to co-exist amicably. I tend to believe we can."

Go into detail about how proud you are of the successes of your conference on the gridiron last year. Eric Fisher, the BCS game, the successes over other FBS schools. 
"It was truly a bright shining moment for this conference. It was validation for some of the things we've talked about. It's a simple formula that is really tough to execute. You go out and hire really good coaches who put together good staffs and go out and recruit motivated student-athletes who continue to develop. And we go out and compete. It sounds simple to do, but it is incredibly difficult. It's a culmination that starts at the top of each of our institutions from the school presidents and their ADs, then throughout the administration and through the staffs and student-athletes. All we ask for is a chance to compete. When we're given that, we'll let the chips fall where they may. Now the challenge is to take that from being an exception and make it more of a rule. It's going to be a challenge every year just from a numbers perspective. But I think if you talk to our athletic directors and coaches, we expect to get into a BCS bowl game. When we go into the playoff format, we expect to be challenging for that slot. We have high expectations. We'll see every year if we can live up to those."

Do you feel that with more bowl games, it weakens the bowl field possibly to the detriment of the Mid-American Conference?
"I think that is why we are pursuing the bowl opportunities we are pursuing. I'd like to grow our primary opportunities to address some of those issues if we could. I've not been shy in saying that I'm not a huge fan of 6-6 being good enough to be eligible for a bowl game, but that's where we are at. If that's the standard, then we'll try to work within that standard. I don't see a movement to change that, so there we are."

With the Pizza Bowl's future in doubt, has there been talk about another game in the Midwest somewhere?
"There have been conversations about bowl games in all sorts of places. Like I said, we're interested in talking to people who are interested in putting on bowl games. We are interested in partnerships that we can grow within and grow with."

How do you feel about the new Ford Field bowl game between the ACC and Big Ten?
"You know, we were aware since I think last January. There was some question that we might be able to be involved in the game every other year or a portion of that time. We're proud to be partners with Ford Field. We have a great championship game here. It's a chance to for us to bring our student-athletes and fans into a wonderful venue where in that first Friday in December we know it is going to be 72 and sunny in here. Not many Midwestern conferences can do that. We're fortunate to have that. They partner with us on a lot of things. The youth clinic (Monday) was another example. We have a good partnership with Ford Field and we hope to continue that."

Are you any closer to a decision on making the MAC a 12-team or 14-team football conference?
"I don't think it is an either/or. You add or subtract teams from your conference for two reasons. You do it to survive or you do it to get better. We have the luxury of being able to be deliberate. Is 13 a bit of an inelegant number? Yeah, it probably is. But we have made it work for seven or eight years now. So there is no clock ticking and I don't have administrators breathing down my neck saying that I need to grow this conference. If an opportunity develops that makes sense for us, sure. It's much broader than a football question or a basketball question. It's what is the institutional fit? What are the funding models? A whole host of things that we get into. If all those things match up, then perhaps we move forward. I like our 13."

Are you in any discussions with other schools about joining the MAC for football?
"I guess what I'll say is that I spend a little time every week scanning the environment. I know what's out there. I dig a little behind the scenes and ask what makes that program tick? I try to figure it out. But we are where we are."

If you could pull your crystal ball out, how do you see the bowl landscape changing starting in 2014?
"For the Mid-American Conference, I would expect to be in four or five permanent bowls along with a couple backups. We want to be in position so our 8-4 and 7-5 teams can get placed and hopefully opportunities as well for 6-6 teams if they exist. The financial model is changing a little bit. A bit for the better. For one, there is more money in the system. So we are getting to a point where we are better able to cover the expenses for the institutions involved. The models with the bowls themselves are changing a little bit. Our bowl deals are typically a little different. We don't have a bowl deal where we turn to the school and say we'll give you this amount of money, but you are responsible for selling X amount of tickets. We take care of that and we facilitate in other ways. I think there will certainly be other opportunities for the Mid-American Conference and our student-athletes. The FBS Subdivision is growing a little bit, so we'll be able to grow a few more bowls. Adding too many bowls gets a little unhealthy, but I would expect a couple more bowls to be added."

You've mentioned the potential for FCS schools to come up. Do you see that in the near future?
"I think they have already come up. I don't know if I see any others coming up. There really aren't many more slots and because of the movement, Conference USA and the Sun Belt Conference brought in some FCS schools. For the time being, Conference USA says they are happy at 14. I don't know for sure what the Sun Belt is thinking, but I don't think there is too much more room in this sudivision." 




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