The WCC released the conference schedule earlier this week and it raised eyebrows, particularly at Gonzaga and Portland. Scheduling is never simple, but it figured to get easier with a 10-team model (with the addition of Pacific) and the return of travel partners.
The Zags open with four straight home games, all with students on holiday break. For the second consecutive season, Gonzaga-Saint Mary's, the conference's best rivalry, will take place in Spokane with GU students on holiday break. Portland opens with five straight home games, the last vs. travel partner Gonzaga.
I asked WCC assistant commissioner Jeff Tourial for an explanation. His response is below.
Tourial: It's an imperfect science to say the least. The schedule is made by Bortz Media & Sports Group (they make Pac-12, NBA, WNBA, A-10, among others) based on our scheduling principles (such as no more than 4 straight away, can't play same team back-to-back, etc.) combined with ESPN selections.
With the return to our travel pair model this year, we are very limited in terms of leeway to move games around. For example, if ESPN takes a Gonzaga-BYU game on a given date, then that affects Portland and San Diego's games for that weekend, too. Then, on the other day that weekend, if they grab Santa Clara vs. Saint Mary's, then that locks in Pacific and San Francisco's games as well. Suddenly, the only teams “left” in this scenario are LMU and Pepperdine – who would play each other. Suddenly, our flexibility is all but gone.
For ESPN Networks, their radars are heightened by new competition from other networks and so their need to have the “best games” has never been greater. They have the challenge of fitting not only West Coast Conference games, but games from their other partners into the existing TV windows (time slots) they have available.