The possibility of dividing Division I college basketball into two separate national tournaments will be discussed at a meeting of I-AA schools with NCAA officials today in Kansas City, Mo., according to Andy Mooradian, athletic director at the University of New Hampshire and a member of the NCAA Council.
Under such a format, there would be Division I-A and I-AA in basketball, the same as currently exists in football.
Mooradian, who is a friend of John Toner, Connecticut's athletic director and nominated to become president of the NCAA, said he has not worked on the logistics of I-AA basketball. But he said it would involve the realignment of some leagues.
It is likely a special NCAA convention, such as the one in 1980 on I-AA football, would have to be called to consider such a proposal, according to Mooradian, Sources in Division I say that to have any chance at passage, the second tier tournament must have two essential elements: enough money and national television exposure.
Sources say a workable format for such a second tier in basketball probably would include most Division I members who are not I-A in football. Washington-area schools that could fall into this group include American, George Washington, George Mason and Howard universities. Of these four, only Howard plays Division I football.
Georgetown, which plays Division III football, likely would become Division I-A in basketball under such a plan, according to Mooradian. To work and get enough support, sources say the new Division I-A in basketball would include only 100-110 schools, with the rest of the 275 basketball-playing Division I members in the second tier. There are 98 Division I-A football schools.
Such a plan is viewed by some as a compromise that will swing enough Division I-AA votes at next month's NCAA convention to carry a proposal that would establish basketball attendance criteria to retain Division I status for colleges and universities that do not play Division I football. The 92 I-AA votes are considered crucial to whether the controversial proposal passes or fails.
Today's meeting has been called to discuss television litigation, academics and reorganization affecting I-AA schools. But Mooradian says the basketball tournament idea will be discussed, and the meeting is seen by some as a lobbying effort by the NCAA to gain support for the attendance criteria, which would require 3,500 average home attendance or 110,000 total annual attendance for the last four years for Division I teams that do not play Division I football.
"I-AA football has been great for our program, because otherwise we'd have nowhere else to go. We can't compete with the big-timers for bowls," Mooradian said. "It's created excitement for our students, and exposure for us. Realistically, a I-AA basketball program would give our school and others a more realistic chance to participate in a national championship."
Bob Frailey, American University's athletic director, and Chip Zimmer, George Washington University's acting athletic director, said, yesterday they did not like the I-AA idea; George Mason's Jack Kvancz said the proposal has merit and is worthy of consideration.