But he hasn't gotten around to solving them

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

But he hasn't gotten around to solving them yet.

"So far I've done a lot of unpacking. I haven't even met formally with the athletic directors yet," said Chryst, who addressed the media at the annual Commissioner's Forum during MAC Football Media Day Festivities on Monday. "But I know that attendance, television and bowl games are the three primary areas where the MAC needs to show improvement and progress.

"On the positive side, three MAC schools set single-game attendance marks against conference opponents last year. But as far as television and bowls are concerned, we still have a lot of catching up to do."

Last year's limited MAC television package with FOX Sports was marred by cancellations and mismatches.

"We will have a MAC football television package in '99," said Chryst, "one that highlights the best in MAC football this year and that sets the foundation for growth in the years ahead. We're looking at cable and broadcast networks, with one or multiple rights holders."

Selling MAC football's legitimacy to television execs has been tough in the past. But that's no longer the case according to Chryst.

"Actually I've had to do less selling of our product than I anticipated," he said. "The strength of our basketball and some of our football programs speaks for itself. However, the saturation of the college football market has been a major challenge."

Contacts in the television industry should be plentiful for Chryst, who previously served as assistant commissioner in charge of marketing, television and corporate programs for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Still, convincing any of his old buddies to take a flyer on MAC football won't be easy.

"We need to establish a television platform. And to do that, especially as a conference trying to find its niche, we need to be flexible with our scheduling," said Chryst. "Once we know the platform, we need to schedule aggressively into it."

As far as potential new bowl games are concerned, Chryst had little news to report.

"The Motor City Bowl has been a major success, but we're still searching for additional bowl opportunities," he said. "Discussions with (a newly-forming bowl coalition in Toronto) are still active, but that game wouldn't take place until the year 2000 at the earliest. And right now, there are no other options.

"We're just looking to see what's out there this year. There are very few open slots left."

Chryst also discussed scheduling, which has been in a state of disarray since the phasing in of a 13th team in Buffalo began a year ago.

Buffalo will compete in football in the MAC's East Division this year, making the MAC the largest Division I-A football conference in the nation.

"In the short term, we need to sit down and determine whether we can make scheduling work with 13 teams," said Chryst. "If we can't, then we'll look into expansion. In my opinion we need to be a divisional conference, and we need to schedule like one by emphasizing divisional games. But it's a lot easier said than done, trying to make 13 an even number."

Look for additional news on television packages, scheduling and other hot topics to trickle in as Chryst settles in over the next few months.

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