College basketball nonconference scheduling is no simple task with a delayed starting date (Nov. 25) and a shorter window (roughly 30 days) to squeeze in 11 potential games with the COVID-19 pandemic clouding the landscape.
Gonzaga’s schedule is taking shape and the Zags are planning for some home games before the West Coast Conference season tips off Dec. 31. One of the options Gonzaga is exploring is hosting a mini-bubble, or pod, with multiple teams coming to Spokane.
“We definitely want to do that,” GU athletic director Mike Roth said. “We can run multiple games at the same time with the McCarthey Athletic Center, the Volkar Center and Martin Centre – they’re all TV ready and great floors. We’re not the only school like that. There are other schools in the West (that could host a bubble).
“Right now, we’re not really getting a lot of traction with it, but we’ll see. We’re still working on it. Hopefully, we end up with a really good, competitive schedule, which we had before all this (COVID-19) stuff and we can find a way to play as many games as we can here because it reduces our travel.”
Gonzaga appears to have five of the maximum 11 nonconference games lined up over the season’s first 11 days. The Zags are in the Orlando (Florida) Invitational (three games from Nov. 25-27) and Jimmy V Classic (vs. Tennessee on Dec. 2 in Orlando). The Zags will face Baylor on Dec. 5 in Indianapolis.
Programs got a late start on scheduling, and they’re juggling numerous factors: Tournaments (known as multiteam events or MTEs), potential bubbles or pods, regional considerations, viability of guarantee games and the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Teams generally take three days off at Christmas.
Schedules are typically made nine to 12 months in advance, even longer in some instances. That’s not the case for the 2020-21 campaign with original schedules requiring considerable editing after the starting date for games pushed back from Nov. 10 to Nov. 25.
“Scheduling is still in flux and we’re right there with everybody else,” Roth said. “Very few contracts have been signed around the country, but we’re getting really close. We’re talking about 11 (nonconference) games in a condensed time frame, a really tight window.”
Guarantee games that involve a smaller school visiting a bigger program for a $75,000 to $100,000 payday have become trickier because of the likelihood fans will be limited or not allowed to attend due to COVID-19 concerns, cutting deeply into the home team’s revenue.
“Fans being able to attend is probably not in the foreseeable future,” Roth said, “but we’re hoping that’s going to change.”
The NBA and WNBA restarted their respective seasons successfully inside bubbles in Florida. Colleges probably can’t duplicate those same conditions and strict safety measures.
“We could accommodate a lot of teams, when you think about it. We have enough hotels in the Spokane area. A team could take these two floors and so on, like they’re doing in Orlando,” Roth said. “Coaches really would rather play games in their own buildings, either play at home or a true neutral court.
“Then it comes down to finances. None of us can afford to pay those guarantees that we’ve done in the past when we don’t have fans (in the arena). That’s how it is from a business standpoint. That’s not just Gonzaga. It’s Kentucky, it’s Michigan State. We’re all in the same boat.”
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