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franklin county times

Bowden: move to Division I likely

With six members scheduled to leave the Gulf South Conference, University of North Alabama coach Terry Bowden told members of the Russellville Rotary Club he thought UNA would make the move to Division-I athletics.

“I believe 100 percent it is going to happen,” Bowden said.

He said the Lions can follow one of two routes used by former GSC members to make the move to Division-I.

He said UNA could play Division-1 in all sports except football like Jacksonville State opted to do when it left the GSC.

The other option is to make the full jump to Division-I like Troy did when it moved up.

Bowden said the Lions could remain in Division-II by helping to build a new conference but that could hurt the program in the long run.

“You can make the program look good by who you play but you can also make it look bad,” Bowden said. “We can stay and be a big fish in a small pond.”

The UNA Board of Trustees is currently looking at all options available before deciding what direction the athletic department takes.

Bowden said there are some issues with moving to Division-I such as funding and meeting the attendance benchmarks mandated by the NCAA, but said UNA should not have much trouble with those issues.

He said the program can get earn roughly $600,000 by playing teams like Alabama and Auburn and that money would contribute quite a bit to the athletic department’s budget. He said those types of games would also help attendance.

“If you open with Florida State then you come home and draw 10,000 more against West Alabama because they just saw you on T.V.,” Bowden said. “It feeds on itself.”

Bowden has been through the move to a higher division before. As Samford’s coach he helped the Bulldogs transition from Division-III to Division-I.

“The first two years are very hard,” Bowden said. “The hardest thing is your schedule. You have to schedule success.”

He said you have to schedule big time programs to budget reasons and to attract recruits, but you also have to have games you can win so recruits and supporters are not scared off.

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