Mirror Scheduling

BY JEREMY HOECK

Mirror scheduling.

You’ve likely heard that term before, right?

It refers to a scheduling format, used notably in our region by the Summit League, that involves a team playing the same opponent on the same night, but in different locations — the USD men and women could play North Dakota State, with one game in Vermillion and the other in Fargo.

Well, its use for basketball scheduling in the Summit is about to change.

• • • •

USD women’s basketball coach Amy Williams was in Yankton on Wednesday as the featured speaker, and was asked about mirror scheduling.

Her response was something along the lines of, “It’s not going to continue.”

She went on to talk about having the teams separated on the same night and the fact that by having home games every Thursday and Saturday, it puts a strain on the administration (I’ve heard that more than a few times).

Naturally, I saw the potential to do some more asking around.

• • • •

Later in the afternoon, I called the Summit League office, and within 15 seconds, was on the phone with commissioner Tom Douple. (He’s an accessible guy, as you can tell).

His biggest point was that with the addition of Oral Roberts to the league next year, having nine members presents a problem. Suddenly, someone — ORU — is left without a travel partner.

And so, the league, according to Douple, went about trying to tweak the basketball schedules for 2014-15. What they did was try to keep as many travel partner trips as possible, and whenever possible to keep games as close to the nearest city as possible.

What the league got was a “hybrid,” Douple said, between a true mirror schedule and all doubleheaders. There will be some doubleheaders within the league, and in many cases could have a school playing two different opponent — for example, USD could have a doubleheader where Omaha plays in one game and Western Illinois the other.

The game times for those doubleheader have yet to be determined, according to USD athletic director David Herbster. But he hinted at potentially having them at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on a weekend, otherwise they would be back to back as normal.

Herbster also said USD was interested in having more flexibility for when those league games would played, instead of the Thursday-Saturday format every week. And so, according to the new schedule, games could be played on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays.

Certain events as the annual Dakota Farm Show in Vermillion were naturally a concern for USD; in other words, that’s pretty much a locked session (typically middle of the week) every year. Douple alluded to certain “facility issues” that the league tried to work around — he did not specifically mention the Farm Show.

Among the other issues USD wanted to look at was potentially more televised women’s games, Herbster said. That’s a question for our friends at Midco Sports, but with mirror scheduling, those men’s games will get the TV coverage. With more doubleheaders in regional spots like Vermillion, Brookings, Fargo and Omaha, you could envision more of those double-dips being televised.

(Speaking of which, I’ve never really bought the argument that people will not attend games that are on TV. You still have folks coming to the arena.)

• • • •

And so, now it’s up to the fans to decide what they think of the changes.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard fans mumble about wishing they had doubleheaders to attend, rather than one game a night.

What would doubleheaders mean for attendance?

You could look at the official figures from schools that have had both doubleheaders and single games and judge, but it’s clear that fans across our region prefer doubleheaders.

When you’re talking about a town like Vermillion, for example, you are drawing in folks from across the region — certainly more so than are from within the city limits. Wouldn’t they rather have two games?

Personally, and it sounds selfish, but I’ve longed for doubleheaders to return in the Summit League. We will undoubtedly run into deadline issues with the men’s games, if those don’t start until 8:30. But we can deal.

All in all, it’ll be interesting to see how next basketball season goes within the Summit League, and whether or not the conference decides to stick with the updated format.

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