Friday, March 9, 2012

Spanning the time zones for the Big Country conferences...

Thinking a little bit about the upcoming merger of the Mountain West and Conference USA, along with the Big East's upcoming additions.

First the Mountain West-Conference USA merger:

* Where could you possibly host a neutral site men's basketball tournament with the future alignment?  Would you host a pair of tournaments, like an east and west tournament, with the final at the best remaining record's home floor?  Does the entire tournament become a tournament played on home courts to take advantage of good crowds?  And when would a tournament like that start so that the students miss as little class time as possible?

* As with any conference and how both of these entities are essentially starting from scratch, the conference members need to decide before they go out on the open market how they intend to schedule themselves.  In basketball, it matters how many conference games you intend to play, how repeating matchups will be determined and what days of the week you intend to play conference games.  For example, C-USA stuck to a Wednesday-Saturday rotation for men's basketball conference games, while the MW schools played either Tuesday or Wednesday, then Saturdays.  For football, both of these conferences left ESPN to avoid playing weeknights that they did not desire (Tuesdays & Wednesdays) and played nearly all games on Thursdays & Saturdays.  We know that Friday has become a more acceptable night of college football, so is that OK the members.  These parameters need to be known before going to the table.  In negotiation, then the exceptions can be made, such as playing basketball games on a Thursday or Sunday, allowing for a football game on Labor Day or Thanksgiving, etc.

* The thing is, when you get to a conference of this size, scheduling and trying to get as many games on TV as possible requires a ton of flexibility on the schools.  Using the Big East as an example, strictly on the comparable size in men's basketball, they play virtually every day of the week during conference except regularly on Fridays so they can have 5-6 nationally televised basketball games per week.   It all depends how many networks they would be able to spread the telecasts over.

The Big East shares some of these same issues:

* What is the plan for scheduling in football?  Boise St. made its bones on ESPN playing weeknight games, unopposed.  Some schools would prefer to play on Saturdays at all costs (Navy).  Now with the NFL playing more Thursday nights, how does that affect schools like Temple, San Diego St. and USF who share NFL stadiums, plus schools like Cincinnati & SMU who share the town with the NFL teams (Rutgers could be thrown in too)?  And now that the conference boasts their ability to schedule in all Saturday time slots, is the goal to have either Boise St. or San Diego St. at home each week?

* After the 1st few years as a 16 team conference, the bottom four of the conference were allowed into the conference tournament and it was extended an extra day.  So what happens when the conference becomes a 20 team behemoth?  Its still a doable bracket as the FCS playoff today is 20 teams played over five weekends, so they could play the basketball tournament over five days, but how many games can you fit in one day?  Does the entire tournament remain at MSG, does a 2nd arena get involved for the early rounds or do you start at home courts before migrating to MSG?

Now for the one item that needs to be considered for both conferences:

* Both conferences as they come together have members who are going to be partial to a particular television partner.  Some may prefer ESPN, Comcast/NBC, CBS or FOX because of how they were treated in their previous contract or conference.  It will be absolutely important for the parties to get on the same page with what they want out of a TV partner or these conferences will continue to have friction and splinter apart.

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