Georgia Basketball Scheduling Fix

It’s Time to Significantly Reduce Non-Conference Home Games

What’s there to gain by playing at home in the non-conference slate?  Not much.

It is time to seriously re-think non-conference scheduling for Georgia Basketball because the status quo and typical way of doing business is simply not working.  Georgia has traditionally suffered the November blues and the home victories really have not provided this team with the necessary boost.  Georgia needs a non-conference schedule that shows that this program is serious and worthy of being considered with the elite.  What do the elite do?  They schedule plenty of neutral site games in both exotic and major metropolitan areas.

Florida scheduled only one non-conference home game due to the renovation of Exactech Arena, but their RPI is through the roof because they were able to face opponents all around the State of Florida in neutral site and road environments.  Florida became a tougher and more unified team because they were on the road.  If the University of Florida could do it this season, the University of Georgia could do it too for the next few seasons.

Above is Florida’s resume thus far as of December 24.  Florida had to win against tough opposition, but their Strength of Schedule offered them a significant cushion.  Winning on the road or at neutral sites in non-conference play gave Florida an extra boost that others in major conferences could not match.  There were no squash matches at home and each win was amplified by the lack of a home venue.

Increasing neutral site scheduling could enable Georgia to have more control over their schedule than a home-and-home.  A home-and-home could feature a road game for UGA in Year 1 when UGA should have a good idea of the quality of their opponent.  The home game back in Athens for Year 2 could feature an opponent that has experienced significant attrition.  Scheduling a neutral site game takes away that Year 2 risk.  It also enables Georgia to face a wide variety of opponents and play in various cities that are eager to host a neutral site game or tournament.  There are incentives to doing this.

This sort of a schedule can be implemented as early as the 2019-20 season, which means that Georgia could schedule as few as two non-conference home games for the next two seasons.

Common Complaints & Questions concerning this concept with responses:

We want to see our Dawgs play and win a game at Stegeman Coliseum before Conference Play!

The attendance figures say otherwise. Georgia’s attendance for non-conference games is awful and the school has to pay many opponents anywhere from $40,000 to $120,000 to come to Athens and play in front of empty red seats.  Think this is just a statement that is without merit and made with the intent of dismissing your concerns?  Here’s your proof.

2016-17 Non-Conference Home Games Before the End of College Football Bowl Season

2015-16 Non-Conference Home Games Before the End of College Football Bowl Season

2014-15 Non-Conference Home Games Before the End of College Football Bowl Season

2013-14 Non-Conference Home Games Before the End of College Football Bowl Season

2012-13 Non-Conference Home Games Before the End of College Football Bowl Season

That is just the tickets sold, the seats sold are not necessarily filled and the actual attendance is never released for good reason.  Consider how many purchase season tickets and skip out on weekday, non-conference games.  For all of the complaints that Mark Fox considers the non-conference schedule to be a preseason, the home attendance figures confirm that this is the way it is treated by UGA partisans.

The unfortunate truth is until Football Season is completely over, many do not pay attention.  Even worse is that more pay attention after Football Signing Day, make a snap judgment and quickly shift their focus to Spring Football.  Local media know that Spring Football and Football recruiting articles enjoy greater click-through rates, page views and virality than any College Basketball story could ever produce.

What about the growing out-of-state alumni contingent?  Many would love to go to Georgia Basketball games, but they would have to travel in the middle of a bad weather season to get to Athens.  The out-of-state alumni and the Alumni Association groups in each city could attract a high turnout in New York, Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.  What about Christmas with the Dawgs in Hawai’i?  Nothing better than great weather, beaches and cheering on the alma mater after making the mistake of consuming spam musubi.

Georgia Football is not going to be making many trips outside of the Southeast and they are not going to be visiting the metropolises outside of the region.  Expecting the Georgia Football team to make these sorts of trips is unreasonable.  However, it is more cost effective and schedule-friendly to have the Georgia Men’s Basketball Team and even Women’s Basketball Team visit these locations.  It’s challenging for these alumni to come into town, why not come to them?  After all, alumni are more likely to support Georgia Men’s Basketball.

Out-of-state alumni want to see their alma mater in person too!

The University of Georgia Athletic Association currently does not know their core audiences and have a regional mindset for a global university.

What about revenues for Men’s Basketball?

The same University of Georgia Athletic Association that does not charge a dime for admission to G-Day can afford to lose out on non-conference body bag games that can do nothing but hurt Georgia’s NCAA Tournament resume.  The University of Georgia Athletic Association does not have personal seat license fees for Georgia Football that are in the Top 5 of the conference despite the State of Georgia’s growing economic standing thanks to the ever sprawling Atlanta Metropolitan area.

The University of Georgia Athletic Association derives an overwhelming majority of its revenue from Football and the SEC Network television contract.

Neutral site games could end up being at least breakeven as far as opportunity cost of tickets sold and concessions for seven body bag games in Athens.  These body bag games also are pay-for-play games in almost all instances, which reduces costs and increases the odds of Georgia making the NCAA Tournament, which enhances demand and giving.

With a home schedule that has every game viewed as significant, it justifies higher prices per game and UGA could also implement what professional sports teams do and impose higher prices for rivalry games.  Games against Florida, Auburn, Kentucky and Georgia Tech would justify single game ticket prices to be much higher than the home games.  Creating the exact pricing model for the PSLs (donations) and tickets is not up to the Georgia Basketball Blog unless specifically contracted to do so.

In this neutral site non-conference scheduling model, Georgia would only host one home non-conference game per season.  Georgia would have to host Georgia Tech, a Big XII school in the Big XII/SEC Challenge in January or make up for it with a home-and-home arrangement with a power conference program of equal status.

How would the home schedule look like and how should it be put together?

Seasons with Georgia Tech coming to Athens and participating in the Big XII/SEC Challenge

  • Face Georgia Tech at Stegeman Coliseum.
  • The Big XII/SEC Challenge game is to be played on the road.
  • Nine SEC games to be determined:  South Carolina, Auburn and Florida guaranteed to be in Athens.

Seasons with Georgia Tech being a road game and participating in the Big XII/SEC Challenge

  • Face Georgia Tech at McCamish Pavilion
  • The Big XII/SEC Challenge game is to be played at Stegeman Coliseum.
  • Nine SEC games to be determined:  South Carolina, Auburn and Florida guaranteed to be in Athens.

Seasons with Georgia Tech being a road game and Year 1 of not participating in the Big XII/SEC Challenge

  • Face Georgia Tech at McCamish Pavilion
  • Host Year 1 of a Home-and-Home Series against evenly matched opponent in a Power Conference.
  • Nine SEC games to be determined:  South Carolina, Auburn and Florida guaranteed to be in Athens.

Seasons with Georgia Tech being a home game and Year 2 of not participating in the Big XII/SEC Challenge

  • Face Georgia Tech at Stegeman Coliseum
  • Travel to opponent in return match of a Home-and-Home Series against a Power Conference program that was considered an evenly matched opponent in Year 1.
  • Nine SEC games to be determined:  South Carolina, Auburn and Florida guaranteed to be in Athens.

If all else fails, jack up the prices on Georgia Football tickets and minimum donations for season tickets because it enjoys inelastic demand.  It could be thought of as an apathy surcharge that is already baked in the cake.

Could there be a game played at Philips Arena?

There should be ONE game played at Philips Arena every season, but it should be done in a fashion that promotes College Basketball in the State of Georgia, more specifically the Atlanta-Athens corridor.

The MetroPCS Orange Bowl Classic offers up an opportunity for fans and alumni of the major College Basketball programs in the State of Florida to watch their schools play at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, which is located across the street from the sprawling Sawgrass Mills mall.

There used to be a Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Classic that Georgia would participate in nearly every season.  These sorts of events set up great neutral site games in cities near the opponents.   Georgia “hosted” Oregon State in Philips Arena in 2004 and then made the trip to Portland to face Oregon State at the Moda Center, then known as the Rose Garden.  In 2003, Georgia “hosted” Clemson in this game and then came up to Clemson in the 2004-05 Season to take on Clemson in Greenville at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, which was then known as the Bi-Lo Center.

It was not just Georgia participating in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Classic.  Georgia Tech was a part of it too!  Both Georgia and Georgia Tech faced opponents as part of a doubleheader.

Reviving the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Basketball Classic would be helpful not just to Georgia and Georgia Tech, but also to emerging Georgia State.  How about a tripleheader during the Christmas Break?  That ought to fill seats at Philips Arena.

How would the rest of the schedule look like?

Georgia plays a total of twelve non-conference games per season.  Under this proposed scheduling model for 2019-20, it could be as follows.

  • One Home Non-Conference Game:  Big XII opponent (Big XII/SEC Challenge), Georgia Tech or Major Conference opponent.
  • One Neutral Site Game in Atlanta as part of a revived Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Classic.
  • One road game against a Big XII opponent (Big XII/SEC Challenge), Georgia Tech or Major Conference opponent.
  • One neutral site game against a power conference opponent that is near their campus.
  • A neutral site tournament that features three games in November.
  • A neutral site invitational that features two games in December.
  • One neutral site game in an out-of-state metropolitan area that has a heavy amount of UGA alumni.
  • A road game against a lower end opponent that is not far from one of the neutral site games or regular season Football Game opponent.
  • One road game against a regional mid-major program:  Chattanooga, East Tennessee State, Jacksonville, North Florida, Wofford, Furman, Charlotte, College of Charleston, Coastal Carolina, Winthrop and Belmont are all programs to be considered.

Georgia is barnstorming to build the brand up, improve the team’s resume, build confidence, make the home games mean more and reduce the tie of the program’s fortunes to the conference.

What about the student-athletes getting to class?

The neutral site tournaments and invitationals happen during school breaks.  The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Classic would take place after Finals Week, but before the playing of the Peach Bowl Football Game.  The neutral site game in a metropolitan area can be organized as a Friday game, it could be a season opening game.

These trips will surprisingly fit into the schedule well.  Since it is more likely that Georgia is a part of the SEC/Big XII Challenge, UGA would only have eleven games to fit into six and a half weeks.  This can be managed appropriately around Finals Week and ensure that the travel does not interfere with classroom time.

How Long Would This Method of Scheduling Last?

Going back to the old way of scheduling is not an option that should be considered after going down this route.

Georgia could adopt a two home non-conference game schedule if it is fruitful during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons going forward.  However, Georgia has the freedom to schedule only one game in 2019-20 and it may be a case where this one home non-conference game schedule is explored for two seasons.

Scheduling more than two home non-conference games could put Georgia back on the path of scheduling too soft and inviting the issues that exist currently.

Can you provide an example of how this non-conference schedule could look if applied to next season?

It is hard to deny the current scheduling reality as there are already games that have been scheduled for particular dates next season.

Here’s a theoretical schedule based on next season that assumes that there are no home games outside of Georgia Tech and Oakland taking place and Georgia is in the Big XII/SEC Challenge.  It is modified to reflect some of the road games already scheduled as home-and-home series.  It is not the exact proposal that is made, but many of the overall themes are incorporated in this schedule.

November 10:  Georgia at Alabama State

November 15:  Georgia Tech at Georgia

November 19:  Georgia at Charlotte

November 23-26:  Wooden Legacy taking place at Cal State Fullerton and Anaheim, California.  (3 Game Tournament that features San Diego State, Saint Mary’s, Cal State Fullerton, DePaul, Washington State, Harvard and St. Joseph’s.)

December 2:  Georgia at Marquette

December 13:  Georgia at UMass

December 16:  Georgia vs. Providence at the TD Garden in Boston  (Providence would be UGA’s 2018 Peach Bowl Classic opponent)

December 20:  Oakland at Georgia

December 23:  Georgia vs. Maryland in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Classic at Philips Arena  (Georgia would face Maryland in 2018 at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.)

January 27:  Georgia at Oklahoma

Two home games are certainly better than seven to nine.  This schedule would be free of pre-existing entanglements (i.e. the UMass series) in 2019-20, which is when Georgia has the liberty to take on only one home game.

Why not just schedule more high profile teams in home-and-home games?

The old “we scheduled North Carolina, Purdue, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh etc.” argument.  Programs with a large following will take over Stegeman Coliseum, which would be an embarrassment and it would be discouraging.  The goal is for Stegeman Coliseum to not be the place where opposing schools can sing their rally songs, perform loud chants and do volley cheers.  Stegeman Coliseum can easily become a neutral site environment or road environment in Athens for this Georgia Basketball team.  It is an ambush and it attracts those that are fans or alumni of other schools that live in the Atlanta area to create a hostile atmosphere for UGA when it is expected to be supportive.

Georgia Basketball does not have enough of a following in-state to protect from this sort of a thing happening.  It is one thing for it to happen on a neutral floor, but at Stegeman Coliseum, it becomes a different story.  Apathy in the SEC outside of Kentucky has helped prevent this from happening, but bringing higher profile programs to Athens results in sellouts because 25-50% of the crowd are wearing different colors and cheering for the other school.

Non-conference home game austerity is geared toward a local partisan base that does not pay attention to the program until conference play.  The readers of this publication are of the minority as far as following the UGA Men’s Basketball Program all year round.  The vast majority of course do not pay attention or hold hostile views toward the program regardless of success and individual coaching the team because Football is all that matters for them.

Atlanta is a transplant city filled with people from all over the country and the world.  There are large concentrations of alumni from many different schools in this metropolitan area.  There are large concentrations of Georgia alumni all across the country as well.

Maybe they should get a little taste of home every now and then, right?  

3 comments

  1. I agree with your comments on playing more non conference games at neutral sites. The seats in Stegeman are just not being filled before the conference schedule as you have pointed out and it would allow the UGA Athletic Association to help grow the UGA basketball brand by playing in venues across the country. The brand would be grown over several years and would help our recruiting in areas beyond the Southeast.

  2. Those attendance figures year after year just show how Mark Fox has failed to capture the interest of the fan base. That happens when your record against top 100 RPI teams over 7 years is awful. Whenever we play legit competition, we are reminded how little Mark Fox has elevated the program and how far we have to go to be relevant nationally. While it does appear to have helped UF playing non-conference games away from Gainesville, Mark Fox’s record away from Stegeman has been pathetic. The RPI rank doesn’t matter when you have a losing record.

    If the goal is to have a program that “isn’t horrible”, then keep Mark Fox around forever. If we’re actually looking to build a program that will contend for an NCAA tournament bid every year, make it more times than not and regularly win some games there, Mark Fox is CLEARLY not going to be that guy. So, let’s move on and give someone else a chance.

Comments are closed.