Benson discusses Sun Belt attendance and hoops tournament

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson didn’t seem concerned on Wednesday that his conference’s average attendance during the 2014 football season topped only the MAC”s on the FBS level.

The Sun Belt averaged 18,294 fans at home games during the 2014 season, according to information recently released by the NCAA. The MAC averaged 15,431 fans. Conference USA, which came in eighth to the Sun Belt's ninth, averaged 20,455.

“I think in general, college football has seen a decline,” he said. “A couple of our schools showed increases.”

Benson said that if Georgia Southern and Appalachian State are added to the average it increases. The two were considered to be schools that are reclassifying the NCAA. Adding them to the Sun Belt’s other nine schools increases the conference’s average to 18,992.

Benson said that a win-loss record will have a direct correlation on a team’s attendance, as do attractive non-conference games. Five of the conference’s 11 schools had winning records last year and four finished with three wins or less.

Sun Belt teams hosted Mississippi, Wake Forest, Duke, Navy and Air Force last year.

This year, conference teams will host Missouri and N.C. State in its marquee non-conference games.

“Everyone understands the strategy that is necessary to elevate a team into the top 20 and ultimately in competition for being the highest-ranked among peer conferences,” Benson said. “It requires a blend that allows one to win non-conference games and to be able to have the quality wins and ultimately a big win.”

Basketball tournament: Benson said the conference and its members are still discussing the potential sites for the basketball tournaments as they head into the final year of the contract with Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.

There were several cities, including Atlanta, under consideration before New Orleans was selected a few years ago. But Benson said he can’t say what direction the conference is headed or where it will land.

He did say they haven’t ruled out staying in New Orleans, which is where the conference’s headquarters are located.