MBB: UD builds schedule with record number of national TV games
By: Keith Raad – Asst. Sports Editor
It’s a never-ending process involving projections, math, a little bit of luck and one big white board.
Putting together the 2014-15 men’s basketball schedule was a tall task for Dayton men’s basketball Director of Basketball Operations Bill Comar, and Neil Sullivan, the deputy director of athletics.
Treacherous by nature, the battle for scheduling begins with a model framed around several different aspects.
“There are a lot of buckets we’re trying to hit,” Sullivan said. “The balance that we have to strike is the most difficult. We have to hit revenue targets which lead to the number of home games. We have to hit RPI targets in terms of strength of schedule. We have to hit the TV bucket. We have to have games that are compelling enough to be on television and we have to see where our in-season tournament fits in.”
The scheduling model, however, changes with the program’s current status. With this team and this program vying for an NCAA tournament bid, scheduling tough in order to impress NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is the plan.
“We try to balance all of these things like Top 50 games, Top 100 games,” Sullivan said. “We can’t let any target get too out of whack, though. We want a great RPI but you can’t go play Duke, Kentucky and Florida back to back. That’s not smart either.”
According to Sullivan, the business dictates two different types of games: guarantee, or “one-way” games, and series games.
In a guarantee game, one team pays another to come to its home arena. In a series game, home-and-home matchups are set up so that both teams will travel to both venues over the course of the number of years agreed upon. On this year’s schedule, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Georgia Tech will be series games.
The university will set up on average about five guarantee games per year. The price of those games starts at $75,000 and fluctuates anywhere between $10-15,000 north of there. That base number changes based on the school and the conference.
With two more Atlantic 10 Conference games added this season, a three-game tournament at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, series games already in place with teams like Georgia Tech and Ole Miss, Comar and Sullivan had to work quickly to fill open dates according to their revenue bucket.
Between Dec. 3-9, UD will play three Mid-American Conference opponents: Miami University, Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green State University. Comar said it was almost a coincidence.
“It’s the reality of who’s available on that last date,” Comar said. “Bowling Green was one of those challenging ones where we had a game that was on the calendar for months with Miami, and then Eastern Michigan filled in. This third game Dec. 9 with BG fit in with our model.”
Fighting for teams can be part of a bidding war, something very common to the business.
“The marketplace gets driven up by the demand,” Comar said. “Sometimes you’ll have the perfect opponent on the perfect date but someone is going to be willing to pay higher and get the schedule done. I’ve heard of games going for $110-120,000 when you get late in the process.”
Until that contract is signed, teams can move on to other bids.
“We’ve had a lot of games that disappear in the “eleventh hour” that our fans would have loved, both guarantee and series games,” Sullivan said. “You think you have it for a couple of weeks, but until that contract is signed, we don’t get too excited.”
“When we got the Arkansas series this year, I can remember a few days passing waiting to get the contract back wondering if we still had it,” Comar said.
Though matching dates with academic calendars, classes, tests and finals, relationships are an immense part of the schedule, too.
“There’s no game that [Flyers Head Coach] Archie [Miller] and [Athletic Director] Tim Wabler don’t know about or have a say in,” Sullivan said. “Bill and I handle it, but Tim is involved with calls to get games, Archie is involved with calls to get games. You’re trying to get those marquee series games so everyone involved is trying to shoot the bullets to get those games.”
Working with the Atlantic 10 Conference is how television markets divvy-up regional and national television games. This season, a school-record 21 games will be on national TV, up from 17 last year. Flyer fans can see eight games on ESPN’s family of networks, seven on CBS Sports Network, four on NBC Sports Network, and two on SNY.
But the balancing act of a schedule, Comar said, cannot be stressed enough.
“The balance is so strong to see too because if you hit a bad patch, there’s an opportunity to pull yourself out,” Comar said. “It puts you in a position to build momentum.”
Facing a scare late in game one of 2013-14 against IPFW, a Jordan Sibert game-winning three-pointer salvaged what the staff projected to be a bad loss, if it happened. But that’s where luck took over.
“We didn’t project IPFW to be a 25-win team,” Comar said. “But at the end of the day, that became an even better win that we could have projected because of their strong season.”
There was a sigh of relief after the Sibert three to beat IPFW, which is longer than the exhalation after Comar and Sullivan put together the schedule.
“There’s not a whole sigh of relief,” Sullivan said. “There’s no off-season to try to get those marquee games. We’re aggressively working on next year already.”
The Flyers will open the 2014-15 schedule with Alabama A&M Friday at UD Arena. Gametime is set for 7 p.m.