NEW ORLEANS (AP) -The decision to embrace technology saved money for the Sun Belt Conference, economized time for football coaches and perhaps even spared some calories for Arkansas State defensive lineman Alex Carrington.
There wasn't going to be any Creole gumbo or shrimp remoulade for those selected to participate in the conference's annual preseason meetings with the media, which previously took place in New Orleans but this year went exclusively online.
``I was looking forward to taking Alex down there and taking him out to eat and seeing what he could put away, but he might have broke the bank,'' Arkansas State head coach Steve Roberts joked.
Sun Belt spokesman John McElwain said the conference is the first major college football conference to abandon the traditional hotel ballroom media day setting for the Internet, saving travel costs for members and reporters alike during the national recession.
Conference USA will do the same later this month.
h included not just travel to the Big Easy but receptions as well as a steamboat cruise on the Mississippi River.
With public universities across the country trimming costs, the Sun Belt's move to shift the format online was agreed upon a few months ago.
McElwain said more than 50 reporters registered to cover the two days of media sessions online, compared to fewer than 40 last summer at a downtown New Orleans hotel. The hope was that making it more convenient and less costly for the media might improve coverage for the Sun Belt, which began sponsoring Division I Football Bowl Subdivision programs in 2001.
Six of the conference's nine football teams took part in online interviews on Monday, with the other three, including defending conference champion Troy, are scheduled for Tuesday. The conference also arranged for coaches to call into sports radio shows that might otherwise have recorded interviews in person had events been held in New Orleans.
The Sun Belt intends to use the same online format for basketball media days in the fall.
The event was not without its glitches, however, as video and audio was interrupted from time to time. When Florida International coach Mario Cristobal first began to speak, there was no video of him. When Louisiana-Lafayette coach Rickey Bustle appeared on screen, his lips moved but there was no sound.
ssage repeated several times in the background. Later, Mean Green linebacker Tobe Nwigwe could be seen shrugging his shoulders and sighing while a pulsating, static-like feedback overwhelmed the audio feed for about 30 seconds until conference operators broke in.
Still, the interview sessions of about a half hour for each team remained on schedule, with coaches and one player from each team speaking at length as they responded to questions about the coming season.
Several coaches agreed the format saved time, giving them about two more days to be on campus with their coaching staffs and prepare for training camp when they might otherwise have been on the road.
``I think this is a great way to do it,'' Louisiana-Monroe head coach Charlie Weatherbie said. ``We're maybe starting a new trend here.''
McElwain said conference officials were pleased with how things went on the first day, but were not ready to commit to the same format next year.
``We're going to see how this plays out with our coverage,'' he said.

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