Cupcakes Wanted: Inquire WithinPosted by nvr1983 on April 15th, 2011
Every March the topic of scheduling rears its ugly head as fans and analysts rip teams for their soft non-conference schedules. Did you ever wonder how teams come up with those schedules? Surely it involves putting together the team statistician, the chairman of mathematics, and the chairman of computer sciences at the university to crunch the numbers to come up with the optimal schedule to allow their school to appease that all-important Selection Committee on Selection Sunday, right? It turns out that it really isn’t that advanced. In some ways, it comes down to a representative of the basketball program putting up a request and basically announcing “call me if you are interested”.
As John Ezekowitz noted it is basically “NCAA Basketball’s Craigslist” where teams try to figure out how to fill their schedules and potentially offer monetary incentives in what are commonly known as “guarantee games”. Essentially a guarantee game is one in which a lesser team is paid (often rather handsomely) to travel to a better team’s arena for a game (read Kyle Whelliston’s account of one such game for more details). These games have often been derided as being against the spirit of the game. Obviously the financial incentive for the proverbial “sacrificial lamb” is a little unseemly and viewed by some as unsportsmanlike. Then there is the competitiveness issue as these games often are blowouts. Some coaches, including Lefty Driesell in our interview with him before this season, have expressed unhappiness at the fact that it does not allow for the traditional home-and-home match-ups that could generate a lot of buzz and ticket revenue for the smaller program, but the bigger program does not want to do so because frankly there is nothing in it for them. If they go on the road and win, who cares? They beat a team that means nothing on the national level and they lost the ability to sell themselves in front of a major recruit. And if they lose on the road? The world ends for a few days as boosters and fans call for the coach’s head and the players have their Facebook walls and Twitter accounts bombarded by all sorts of profane messages.
Looking through several hundred requests it is clear that all types of programs do this. Teams from the very top of the sport (Duke and Ohio State) down to a middle of the pack Northeast Conference team (Central Connecticut State–we are sure there are worse teams on the list, but we got tired looking for them) have posted on the board. We encourage you to go through the list (or at least search for specific teams). The requests are arranged in reverse chronological order so the outstanding requests are near the top although it appears that teams often don’t delete requests even after they have been filled as evidenced by the requests dating back to May 11, 2009. It is somewhat enlightening to look back at some of the old requests and see which teams filled those spots. For example, in May 2009, Duke sent out a request:
DUKE UNIVERSITY is seeking opponents for two contests in Cameron Indoor Stadium during the 2009-10 season. Both games will have national television exposure. The dates are the night of Tuesday, December 15 and the afternoon of Thursday, December 31. Duke will pay a competitive guarantee for the opponent, assist with hotel contact and make available additional tickets for school above the 75 comp.
It appears that Pennsylvania jumped at the chance to play the eventual national champions in Cameron Indoor on New Year’s Eve and were rewarded with a 59-point loss and what was probably a fairly sizable check. The Blue Devils had a slightly harder time filling the December 15th window so a little over a month later they sent out another request:
Duke is seeking an opponent for Tuesday, December 15 in a nationally televised contest in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Competitive guarantee paid and additional ticket purchase opportunity for your alumni.
They were eventually able to get Gardner-Webb to fill that slot and the Runnin’ Bulldogs were handed a 45-point beatdown in which Jon Scheyer nearly had a triple-double (36 points on 11 of 13 from the field, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds). We are sure that Gardner-Webb also took home a nice big paycheck, which they were quite happy with even if wasn’t quite as memorable as their trip to Kentucky in 2007, which may well have been a guarantee game that went horribly wrong for the Wildcats.
This is a trend that does not appear to be slowing down any time soon as Kemba Walker and the UConn Huskies just cut down the nets in Houston and there are already plenty of teams that are requesting opponents to fill open dates. Some of the notable teams already requesting games next year are Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Kansas State, Arizona, Louisville, Pittsburgh, and a handful of other solid programs.
Another notable program that appears to be particularly interested in scheduling any program next season is Virginia Tech. Yes, the team that is always the 66th or 69th team on Selection Sunday. It is also a team that appears to get penalized by the Selection Committee every year for their atrocious non-conference schedule. Their most recent posting for the upcoming season states:
Dates available for 2/1 and H/H…
December 2011: 7, 8, 19, 29, 31
January 2012: 3, 4
While it isn’t as audacious as as their post last year stating that they were “Looking for 2 Buy games” we are hoping the Hokies don’t fall into the same trap in the upcoming season as they have the past few years because we don’t think that Seth Greenberg can take another Selection Sunday on the outside looking in.
Finally, our personal favorite posting comes from Hawaii, which submitted this offer:
BECAUSE OF OUR EXEMPT STATUS WE HAVE A GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO PLAY A GAME IN HAWAII THAT WILL NOT COUNT AGAINST YOUR SCHEDULE. WE HAVE FLEXIBLE DATES. WE WILL PROVIDE FLIGHTS AND ROOMS FOR YOUR TRAVEL PARTY.
That’s right. Not only does that game not count against your maximum number of games so a coach can pile up some wins to buff up the resume for the next contract extension talk, but you also get to travel to Hawaii with flexible dates (try getting your Frequent Flyer program to do that) and the Warriors will also pay for the plane and hotel. Now that we think about it we might even field our first ever official RTC team to take advantage of this.