The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference plans to institute a policy next year under which schools will be fined if their football teams play more than one non-NCAA Division I opponent per season.

MEAC Commissioner Charles Harris said the conference membership passed a rule three years ago under which games against non-Division I teams would have been prohibited, beginning next season, but they have amended it. The fine for violating the rule will be $25,000, sources said.

This season three of the MEAC's nine schools--Bethune-Cookman, Norfolk State and North Carolina A&T--are playing more than one game against non-Division I teams. Bethune-Cookman is playing three, Norfolk State and North Carolina A&T two apiece. All of those games are against Division II schools. South Carolina State is the only other school to schedule a non-Division I team this season; it played Benedict (S.C.) College, an NAIA school.

Howard University has no games against non-Division I teams this season and has not played one since facing Division II Morehouse in 1997.

Harris said the policy is intended to improve the conference's power rating, which is among Division I-AA's lowest.

"The basic notion is try and grow in stature and visibility," Harris said. "The [athletic] directors, I think, recognize that if our goal is to be in a I-AA championship game, then this is one of the steps we have to take to get there."

Norfolk State Athletic Director Orby Moss said his school already has dropped Division II Virginia Union from next season's schedule, but will keep longtime rival Virginia State, another Division II school.

Moss, who has been at Norfolk State only a few months, said that increasing the strength of schedule is good but breaking off long rivalries could be tough.

"This can have a financial impact on some of the schools that have long-term competitive relationships with Division II schools that attract more fans and sell more tickets than games they play with Division I schools," Moss said. "I'm sure our game with Virginia Union will draw more than our game with [MEAC opponent] Bethune-Cookman."