Friday, January 04, 2008

SoCon chooses idiotic 20 game conference schedule again next year

The SoCon scheduling controversy
By Ken Burger
The Post and Courier
Friday, January 4, 2008

The Citadel and the College of Charleston played Southern Conference games Thursday night and will play nothing but conference games until March Madness comes around.

Schedule Madness?

Some think so.

The Bulldogs and Cougars, in fact, will play 18 straight league games through January and February without a single non-conference breather. They both played two league games in December.

That adds up to an unprecedented 20-game conference scheduling format instituted by the SoCon for this season and next. With only 28 games on the schedule, this new concept isn't sitting well with everybody.

"I know everybody has different interests," Citadel coach Ed Conroy said of the schedule controversy. "As a basketball coach I've always enjoyed scheduling according to the needs of my team. I enjoy having that flexibility, and obviously a 20-game conference schedule takes away a little bit of that."

The idea was for every school to play each other twice during the regular season rather than by divisions. But the reality is tough for coaches to swallow.

"When I got here it was 15 (conference games), then it was 18 and now it's 20," said Conroy, whose club lost to Elon, 72-63. "We already had some long-term contracts in the works with schools like Michigan State that we had to change because of this."

Beautiful Boone

The push for more league games came from some Southern Conference schools like Georgia Southern and Western Carolina that have a tougher time getting non-conference teams to come to places like Statesboro, Ga., and Cullowhee, N.C.

Conroy and Cremins agree that Charleston is an easier site to sell than some other venues. And yet, Houston Fancher, coach of Appalachian State in beautiful but remote Boone, N.C., says he doesn't care for the new mandate either.

"A lot of schools are for it and I understand their position," Fancher after his Mountaineers defeated Charleston 70-66 at Kresse Arena. "But for us to grow this league I think we need to play less games and step outside the conference.

"I know it was a close vote. The coaches actually voted not to play 20 games and the athletic directors voted it down."

So, does he have trouble scheduling teams to come to Boone?

"Yeah," Fancher said. "But you just have to go after it and be a little patient. I don't think people have trouble scheduling games. They just struggle to get the games they want."

'Unusual' scheduling

College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins, who coached 19 years at Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference, diplomatically called the scheduling "unusual," but has tried to see the issue from both sides.

"When I went to my first Southern Conference meeting in the spring I was upset about it until I listened to the other coaches," Cremins said. "They mentioned they had trouble scheduling games and that scheduling was a pain in the butt for them. I didn't realize that. I thought with the coaches it would be unanimous, but it wasn't."

Personally, Cremins said he could live with an 18-game league schedule, but thinks 20 conference games limits the league. The ACC and SEC, for instance, play only 16 league games.

"I just don't like doing what nobody else does," Cremins said. "Nobody else plays this number of conference games and I like the flexibility to go outside the conference, I really do. But I have no say."

Indeed, this concept seems to allow the tail to wag the dog.

When asked if the schedule puts extra pressure on coaches and players, Cremins just smiled and said, "Ask me after the season."

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