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Scheduling Conflicts

February 3, 2004 Columns No Comments

Scheduling Conflicts

by Jim Woods

Over the next two months, almost all of the talk surrounding college basketball is going to shift towards the NCAA Tournament. A great deal of this talk will be about “Who’s In”, “Who’s Out”, and “How did they earn a bid”. We all have already read columns and heard rumblings about teams who have played “soft” schedules and those that stepped up during the non-conference portion of their schedule and really challenged their teams. How this all plays out in terms of tournament selection and performance remains to be seen, but the conversation of scheduling certainly sparks plenty of debate. Undoubtedly a school will be left out of the dance because of their schedule and the debate will rage on until that team gets knocked out of the first or second round of the NIT which always happens. (Note to gamblers, and I am not one. Always bet against the first round NIT team that everybody thinks should have been in the tourney. So do their players and they come out uninspired). Let’s examine some of the issues surrounding scheduling and see if we can come up with a solution to some of the problems.

Schools in “major” conferences face more of a dilemma in terms of scheduling then those schools at the “lower” level. Past history has dictated that winning twenty games in a conference such as the Big East or Big Ten is an automatic for getting into the tournament. Therefore teams were loading up on “guarantee” games against lesser opponents to build up their record. The term “guarantee” has dual meaning. The larger school guarantees the smaller school a sum of money to play the game, and usually the larger school gets a guaranteed win. However, the selection committee is becoming more and more aware of this and is looking to see teams get out and play more difficult games. Well, here’s the problem with that. You have an athletic department that has a 17,000 seat arena they need to fill for a certain amount of dates and a certain amount of home games the fans want on the season ticket package to charge the prices they need to. You are not going to be able to play all of your games against other marquee teams at home. Therefore you are losing those precious and financially valuable home games. Your administrators need to understand this, and good luck telling them that you are playing four less home games next year. I’m sure many of you are not surprised that once again money plays a huge factor in another area of college sports.

So now you have possibly annoyed your athletic department and have gone out and scheduled marquee games against other comparable schools and you have sacrificed those precious revenue driven home dates. Let’s say you lose a couple of those games and now the record does not look so impressive anymore. What happens next? Of course, that same athletic department fires you because you not only did not win enough games, and you also did not bring in as much revenue. This is a “catch-22” for the basketball staff. You have a selection committee telling you to play more competitive games and many times an athletic department that wants home games and wins. Now if you go on the road and win those games, you come out looking like a genius to the both parties.

As you can now see, playing in exempt events such as the Maui Classic and the Great Alaska Shootout are huge. If you can get competitive games against other “name” teams on neutral courts, and it doesn’t count against your limit on the number of games you can play you are in great shape. The selection committee understands that you are going to play “guarantee” games and they have no power to stop them. Without the revenue that the smaller schools make from those matchups, many a non-revenue sport would go without uniforms and a travel budget. Many “low major” schools need to bring in sometimes up to $150,000 in revenue from these games. These schools would be in big trouble if the “high majors” stopped scheduling them.

What is the middle ground that keeps all parties happy? I am suggested that there is cap on the amount of money that schools can give out in guarantees. No school is allowed to give out more than $200,000 in guarantee money. I can tell you that the going rate in the major conferences to bring in some teams is as much as $52,000 for a game. Yes, you read that correctly. I was just as shocked when it was offered to me as an assistant, and they were more shocked when I turned it down because we couldn’t play on that date! That $200k can be broken up any way you would like, but that should more than allow you to bring in your wins. Each conference would be responsible for auditing their programs. One side effect is that the “low majors” would be fighting to get on these teams’ schedules because like I said above they need that revenue. The positive result would be more home and home series’ between big programs and the selection committee would have better games to make judgements on when trying to decide who is in and who is out.

More Notes from “The Sideline”

• Emeka Okafor may be getting a great deal of the publicity and hype for National Player of the Year, but I’m not sure if he would win POY in his own conference right now. Ryan Gomes of Providence gets my vote right now for that one. And by the way, don’t ask Coach Calhoun why he didn’t recruit Ryan!

• As one Catamount falls, another rises. As Howard Dean continues his slide towards his political finish line, UVM star forward Taylor Coppenrath continues to impress. Coppenrath is currently averaging 23.7 points per game and has his team riding a nine-game win streak.

• I don’t know about anybody else, but this was a boring week of college basketball. I never thought I’d say that, but the season has been so good that this week didn’t bring much to the table. This may be why I struggles to write this article and I’m really trying hard to bring something to the table.

• Nobody can ever tell me that America isn’t the “Land of Opportunity.” Lawrence Frank and John Carroll are NBA head coaches? Repeat that sentence again. Yup, this is the state of the Eastern Conference.

• Every time I watch a Net game now I can’t help thinking of the 90’s movie “Rookie of the Year” where the little kid gets to pitch for the Chicago Cubs. “Coach of the Year” with Lawrence Frank would make a great sequel.

• St. Joe’s is a very good team, but not a Final Four team. I love the backcourt and I’ve been watching Delonte West since he starred for my good buddy Glenn Farello at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Maryland, but I still can’t vote them any higher than number six in my poll. Upcoming games against Philly rivals Temple and Villanova should be interesting.

• Best of luck and get well soon to Rick Majerus and Rick Pitino.

• If anybody is missing “Real World: San Diego” you have to get on board. When the third week already has two arrests and a “to be continues” episode you know you are in for something good.

• Indiana has very quietly risen to 5-1 in the Big Ten after looking miserable during the early season. Can the people please get off Mike Davis’ back? He goes to the Final Four two years ago and all of a sudden he can’t coach anymore because they get off to a shaky start.

• Bowie versus Trump in “The Apprentice” boardroom the other night was like a one seed against a sixteen. He had no chance. And speaking of that show, to tell you how to graduates of the same school can take different paths, Ereka was a fellow BC Class of 1998 graduate. She is on her way to taking over one of Trump’s company’s and I’m doing articles pro bono for Hoopville.com (and loving very minute of it!).


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