Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Basketball boost or bust

Bravo for the Ohio Valley Conference for trying to enhance its basketball profile, but there’s a very real application in the solution that could negatively impact what league officials are trying to accomplish.

The OVC presidents approved Wednesday a basketball enrichment plan that affects the way teams will be able to schedule in the future. It goes into effect beginning in the 2009-10 season, obviously taking into account existing contracts for the upcoming season.

The plan calls for reducing the number of guarantee games to a maximum of two per season, allowing teams to play as many non-Division I games as they play guarantees, and play a minimum of half their non-OVC games at home (neutral site games not included).

To satisfy that plan, Jacksonville State could play Tennessee, Temple and Tennessee Temple twice or it could schedule Tennessee or Temple and Tennessee Temple. But the days of Tennessee State or anyone else playing four or more guarantee games are no more.

Back when JSU was in the TAAC/Atlantic Sun, Florida Atlantic once played its entire non-conference schedule in guarantee games.

If the purpose of the OVC's plan is to enhance the league’s basketball RPI -- it was the 29th-rated conference (of 32) this week -- limiting the number of games against the power conferences that it has little chance of winning is a good thing, but knowing coaches as we do, what’s likely to happen is teams will trade those high-major slots with winnable games against teams behind them in the RPI.

For Jax State, which is No. 339 (of 341) this week, that would be a difficult proposition, but you get the idea. It may help them get more games, though.

Other mid-major conferences have tried in the past to put safeguards in place to prevent that kind of thing, but there are no RPI minimums in place in the OVC’s plan. Final decisions on whether institutions are in compliance will be made by commissioner Jon Steinbrecher. Compliance with the plan will be tied to the league’s revenue-sharing program.

“I applaud our membership for their willingness to commit to systemic changes that should enhance our opportunity to succeed,” Steinbrecher said in a statement. “This shows that the OVC membership is not satisfied with the status quo. The basketball enrichment plan is part of a series of strategic decisions intended to enhance the Conference’s basketball programs.”

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