As might have heard and/or read, the Summit League has gone to mirror scheduling in basketball this season. That means the men and women face the same conference opponent on the same night in different cities (with a few exceptions).
It’s no secret that South Dakota State has some consternation. Why? Several reasons.
- The school is located in one of the three smallest cities in the league, in of the coldest locales and draws a fair number of out of town fans. That’s why doubleheaders have been so popular - it makes worth while the extra effort that sometimes comes with attending.
- It’s one of two schools in the Summit that sponsors wrestling meaning extra staffing needs in its primary arena. Fans don’t care about that, but administrators do.
- It leads - by far - the Summit in women’s basketball attendance and support. Let’s be honest: women’s hoops is an afterthought at plenty of D-I schools. A program that draws 400 fans per home game and has no radio coverage has less to lose than the Jacks, who have very real aspirations of being top 50 on the court and in the stands on a perennial basis.
Add it all up and you could reasonably argue that SDSU is negatively impacted by mirror scheduling more than any other school in the league. Is that unfair? Hardly. Why? Because you could also make the case that nobody benefits more than the Jacks from the Summit tournament being in Sioux Falls.
Still, I’ll be surprised if members schools make significant gains in attendance; drops seem more likely. The question on whether or not to keep the format then could come down to money: Is a hit to the bottom line worth whatever is gained from giving women’s basketball players Sundays off? That’s the most easily recognizable and universal positive about mirror scheduling.
The most interesting alternative a league coach threw at me this week: Do doubleheaders for every conference matchup and travel via charter plane. The convenience of that might be enough to offset any concerns about the women looking like an undercard. And you could fix that alternating start times. Of course, that’s going to cost some money.
Regardless, this is a complex issue that will continue to play and/or talk itself out leading up to the league meetings in March and perhaps beyond. It’s not easy to find a format that works for everybody given that every circumstance is slightly unique.
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.