NEW ORLEANS - Bowl Championship Series Executive Director Bill Hancock made a guest appearance during Day 2 of the Sun Belt Media Days on Tuesday, and his message was clear: leagues such as the Sun Belt are very much a part of the BCS.

“Nothing bothers me more than hearing the six automatic-qualifying conferences referred to as the BCS,” Hancock said. “I answer to 11 conference commissioners, and all 11 conferences have a vote.”

The Southeastern Conference, Big Ten, Big XII, Big East, Atlantic Coast and the Pacific-10 have automatic qualification for their champions in the five BCS bowls. The Sun Belt, Mountain West, Western Athletic, Mid-American and Conference USA don’t.

“The six automatic qualifiers got that because of the marketplace, and they earned it on the field,” Hancock said. “They get re-evaluated every four years, and that will happen again after this season.”

Hancock said the last evaluation of automatic qualifiers three years ago showed the top six easily maintaining their status. But, he insisted, the BCS has been good for everyone.

The non-automatic qualifying conferences split $24 million thanks to Mountain West champion TCU’s appearance in the Rose Bowl in January.

Buckeyes OK with BCS

If there are any more sanctions headed Ohio State’s way, they don’t figure to come from the BCS. The Buckeyes chose to vacate the Allstate Sugar Bowl victory they claimed against Arkansas after last season. The decision came after it was revealed that Ohio State used players that had received improper benefits.

“There are no ramifications from the BCS standpoint,” Hancock said. “It might have been that another Big Ten team would have been in the game instead of Ohio State, so there’s no change in the revenue.” Michigan State would have been a likely candidate to get the Sugar Bowl berth had the Buckeyes not been eligible at the time.

Sun Belt “stable”

Sun Belt Commissioner Wright Waters said the league, which is beginning its 11th season, is farther along as a football entity than he might have predicted at the beginning, which mirrors the continuous growth of college football overall.

“We had some turmoil (in the early years) that we had to weather,” Waters said. “Now we’re enjoying stability. We still have to focus on improving the quality of the product. We have to take advantage and continue to move up the chain.

“We’re not in survival mode like we were seven or eight years ago. We’re in enhancement mode. I think there’s an acceptance on a national level that Sun Belt football is here and it’s not going away.”

Grass not greener

Waters said some Sun Belt teams had been approached by at least one other league about moving, but chose to stay put. The Western Athletic Conference is looking to expand after losing Boise State to the Mountain West.

“Some of our teams were contacted and all said they had a better situation,” Waters said. “When something like that happens, history kicks in. When it comes to the WAC, some of our schools were in the old Big West and that didn’t work out.”

New Orleans Bowl set

The 11th R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl will be played on the first day of bowl season, Saturday, Dec. 17, in the Superdome. The game will kick off at 8 p.m. CST on ESPN.

This is the second year of a four-year deal in which the New Orleans Bowl gets the first choice among bowl-eligible Sun Belt teams. The opponent will again come from Conference USA.

This is the final year of a three-year deal in which R+L Carriers has been the title sponsor. New Orleans Bowl executive director Billy Ferrante said he has had “positive talks” with R+L, which is in its sixth year as title sponsor, about extending the sponsorship before this year’s game.

So is GoDaddy.com

A second Sun Belt team is slotted to participate in the 13th annual GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala., against a team from the Mid-American Conference. That game will be the second-to-last bowl game of the season, kicking off at 8 p.m. CST on Sunday, Jan. 8, on ESPN. The title game will be Jan. 9 in the Superdome, which will be the site of three bowl games in 24 days. The Allstate Sugar Bowl will be played there Jan. 3.

Lagniappe

Two Sun Belt schools - North Texas and Florida Atlantic - are moving into new stadiums this season. The Mean Green will debut its home stadium in its second game, but the Owls will play five road games before christening their new stadium. ? Everyone - from Ferrante to Godaddy.com Bowl executive director Jerry Silverstein to Troy State coach Larry Blakeney - expressed enthusiasm for South Alabama’s entrance into the Sun Belt in two seasons.