GRIZ GRIT: Scheduling Basketball

By Beacon Staff

There’s no time I like better in sports than during the collegiate basketball season when, especially during the non-conference, games are contested seemingly every night at different times and continuous scores appear on the crawl at the bottom of the television screen.

The arrival of Digital Video Recorders, with its instant playback feature, has made it easier to catch a particular score. I find it enjoyable to watch for that “David beating Goliath” scenario that seems to dot the college landscape, especially in tournaments from Alaska to Hawaii or even Mexico.

In most instances the host team is supposed to be cannon fodder against a highly regarded visitor, and then try to win one game before the tournament is over.

Hawaii-Chaminade University and the University of Alaska-Anchorage often have proved otherwise.

But what is also interesting is the attendance at these events – or, I should say, the lack thereof.

Television cameras show mostly empty venues even when the best teams in the field are on the floor. And sometimes it seems the team’s travel party outnumbers the attendance.

I still love going to tournaments, especially when they’re in exotic or extremely pleasurable locations.

I’ve lost count. But I think I’ve been to three different islands in Hawaii on four different occasions with Griz and Lady Griz hoops and, of course, in 2001 when the Griz football team faced the University of Hawaii.

In fact, on one particular occasion, I bargained with then Athletic Director Wayne Hogan when I couldn’t attend the Great Alaskan Shootout – one of the few states I’ve never visited – because of the football playoffs.

I wanted to trade the Alaska trip to join the Grizzlies at the Big Island Classic the next year. He agreed. And, while the Grizzlies were in Louisiana losing a first-round game to McNeese State, I was listening to Brian Prawitz call the game while I was on the beach at Kona before heading to Hilo for the three-day event.

You just can’t be everywhere all the time, but I made the right choice that particular year. It had nothing to do with location, it just was that basketball was playing three games to football’s one.

Collegiate basketball scheduling has become a nightmare for the University of Montana and, try as it might, it’s just about impossible to get three quality teams to come to Missoula for a tournament. It was September before they filled out their slate this season.

And with the entire Big Sky Conference participating in the Bracket Buster – games in February supposedly meant to separate borderline teams vying for a post-season NCAA berth – the league begins play in December.

This year, because of the usual two-day-between-games league format, Weber State and Montana takes place at 1 p.m., New Year’s Eve day.

Now that leaves the league opener against Northern Arizona to a Wednesday, which would work fine except the Lady Griz Holiday Tournament is that week.

Thus the league opener will be played on a Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m.

Now, by no means am I a scheduling guru and I’ve seen and heard the challenges of trying to fill the schedule with limited resources to attract a team to Missoula, which not only is hard to get to but, these days, is a also a difficult venue in which to secure a win.

The Grizzlies, however, already played Montana Tech at 3 p.m. on a Friday. They’ll play the first two league games with little chance to attract attendance on a Wednesday and Friday at 3 p.m. And, in case you haven’t noticed, the Griz-Bobcat games are back-to-back a week apart at the end of January.

Some season ticket holders are complaining and I don’t blame them. Surely there was a better way.