Loss by design

As the sun sets on the latest basketball game contracts with the Wisconsin Badgers and the Marquette Golden Eagles, the Milwaukee Panthers have found out something very important the past two seasons.

Home is where the heart is…and where the wins are.

The current series with Wisconsin, ended tonight, is too lopsided.

While both losses, last year’s 73-70 decision against Marquette and tonight’s 60-54 decision against Wisconsin prove that the Panthers, like all college basketball teams, play better at home.  Outside the 2005-06 game at Wisconsin, the Panthers have not been close to winning on the road at all in the past decade at either in-state high-major program.

College basketball favors the home team, and when the home team is the high-major far more often than not, the Panthers have an uphill battle to climb in all of those games.

For those who are unaware, the current deal with Wisconsin, wrapped up tonight, is a 7-for-2 where the Badgers host seven games with Milwaukee and the Panthers host two home games. The series began in the 2003-04 season and the Panthers hosted in 2007-08 and 2011-12.  The Marquette series, on the other hand, is a 4-for-1 that began in the 2007-08 season and wraps up on December 22nd at the Bradley Center.

The series with Marquette received much initial publicity from the local media because the Golden Eagles and Panthers hadn’t played from 1998-2007.  The Golden Eagles were seen as ducking the Panthers because of Milwaukee’s rapid rise in the early 2000’s and Marquette’s refusal to negotiate a deal.  In reality, there were many harsh feelings between then-MU athletic director Bill Cords and coach Tom Crean on one side, and then-UWM athletic director Bud Haidet and coach Bruce Pearl on the other.  Once all parties except Haidet remained, prominent boosters within the Milwaukee program ponied up a $20,000 gift to the university to entice Haidet to sign off on the current series.

Haggerty and the Panthers deserve an equitable shot at the state's power programs.

Why did they have to put up the cash? Because Haidet was unwilling to sign off on such a loaded contract.

There are few schools in the country that play 4-for-1 deals with anyone, and the 7-for-2 with Wisconsin may be the only one of its kind in NCAA.  The reasons are two-fold; in some states, the high-major wants to get around to every one of the mid-majors and low-majors in the state.  Ohio State plays a couple in-state mid-majors per year, always in Columbus.  Therefore, everyone gets a crack at the Buckeyes, but it’s on their terms and not everyone gets to play them every year.

There is one case that is very interesting.  In Iowa, state law requires that each of the four Division I basketball programs play a home and home (1-for-1) rollover series.  That is, every other year UNI gets a home game with Iowa and Iowa State.  Since the 2001-02 season UNI is 6-5 against both Iowa and Iowa State.  This may have something to do with the Hawkeyes and Cyclones being utter dog crap, but the fact remains that UNI’s ability to win in each series is helped greatly by the fact that they play one of them at home every year, then alternate.  This season, UNI walloped Iowa at home and won a tough game at Iowa State.  Next year, ISU comes to the McLeod Center and UNI travels to Iowa City.  Drake, the fourth team in Iowa, also enjoys these series with Iowa and Iowa State.  Drake and UNI are in the same conference and already play each other twice per season.

Tony Meier was forced to play three of four career games against Marquette on the road.

Now, I’m not saying the Panthers should seek legislation to force Wisconsin and Marquette to play a home-and-home.  That would be a ridiculous waste of state legislature time and money. That would be almost as ridiculous as pushing through a bill that requires voters to have a photo ID when there were only 20 cases of voter fraud in the last presidential election, 18 of which were cases of felons trying to vote.

If I am Rick Costello, my path forward is clear.  Offer each school a home-and-home rollover series (a rollover is where the contract renews itself automatically until one party wishes it to stop) that begins in 2012-13 at the Arena against Marquette and the Kohl Center against Wisconsin.

Knowing that the chances of either school accepting a home-and-home are slim to none, the immediate response to a “no” should be to offer the Badgers and Golden Eagles a rollover 2-for-1.  The Golden Eagles are in the middle of such a deal with Green Bay and were discussing the same with Milwaukee before athletic director Steve Cottingham resigned as a result of the Marquette sexual abuse scandal.

Milwaukee deserves a 2-for-1 at the very least from UW and MU. Anything less is not worth the trouble.

Should Marquette or Wisconsin refuse a 2-for-1 deal with Milwaukee, then the honest answer is to cut ties.  The fact is that while the Panther fan base is excited to play both the Badgers and Golden Eagles, the Black and Gold no longer need to bend to their terms.  There are numerous high-majors that are willing to give Milwaukee 2-for-1’s to play them.  Cincinnati and Missouri were two that the Panthers had to pass up on because the teams couldn’t match dates.  There are others that Milwaukee can go out and play.

If the Panthers can’t get enough high-major draws to play in Milwaukee once every three years, I’d be all for getting more Missouri Valley or Atlantic Ten teams to hop on the 2-for-2 or home-and-home express.  The UNI game Saturday was the second in a 2-for-2 series between the Panther brothers.  Milwaukee fans would be interested in great 2-for-2 series with Wichita State, Missouri State or Creighton as well.  Bradley and Southern Illinois are series we should be pursuing as well.

The fact is, with 350 college basketball teams, there are more than enough opportunities for Milwaukee to find a more even series with other teams.  The Panthers can’t get a 2-for-1 with Wisconsin?  Too bad. Some high-major would be willing to play that series, especially with the opportunity to recruit in Milwaukee.

Perhaps a home-and-home with Saint Louis could be worked out; we all know how Kwamain Mitchell is doing for Rick Majerus this year, perhaps he’d like to dip back into his hometown recruiting pool.  I know our coaches would like to find another Tony Meier or Lonnie or Shaq Boga in St. Louis.

If Wisconsin and Marquette are willing to work out a deal that is more equitable from the Black and Gold perspective, I’m all for it.  Anything more lopsided than a 2-for-1, however, is pushing it too far and would call for the end of the series until the high-majors understand this isn’t low-major “Wisconsin-Milwaukee” anymore.

Otherwise you’re just catering to their desire, for the contract to continue giving us an annual loss by design.


  1. John

    December 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    This Marquette fan thinks MU shouldn’t accept anything less than a 4-1, and if UWM doesn’t like it, go find someone else. MU gains nothing from playing UWM at all. Playing occasionally in Green Bay at least lets our alumni from up there a chance to see MU in person.

    • Jimmy Lemke

      December 14, 2011 at 1:03 pm

      Thanks for reading, Jon! I think that the market for games against teams at your level, of which we should schedule about 2-4 per season, is enough where we need not corner ourselves with a difficult 20% home series. If MU is unwilling to go 2-for-1, I think it’s time for us to part ways. You’ll have no trouble scheduling a buy game in its place and we’ll replace it with a more home-heavy series.

    • Nic

      December 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm

      Hate to break it to you Marquette, but you’re not exactly a national powerhouse and outside of the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor, you’re just as insignificant as we are.

      Milwaukee can and will find someone else, both Mizzou and Cincy would’ve been more prestigious opponents than MU and both offered us a better deal. There will be others.

      • Jimmy Lemke

        December 14, 2011 at 8:19 pm

        I wouldn’t take a 4-for-1 with Duke. MU is a top 25 program

      • John

        December 15, 2011 at 8:59 am

        Joke, I hope. Marquette is #11 this year with a road win over Wisconsin and a neutral court win over Washington. Articles on ESPN are saying that we are going to be the first team to knock Syracuse off their #1 spot. Hell, we beat them in the NCAA tourney last year. Marquette IS a national powerhouse, and will be for years to come under Buzz with the multitude of 4 and 5-star recruits we have coming in. Also we’ve made the NCAA tourney every year since 2006–that’s six times straight, this year will certainly be seven.

        Keep making baseless claims about Marquette not being nationally relevant–seeing them in the top 15 week after week certainly makes me feel otherwise. If it makes you feel better, keep knocking a nationally top-ranked team and born-again powerhouse, because Marquette is BACK.

  2. John

    December 14, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Marquette alum here.

    Marquette gets nothing from playing UWM besides not having to travel for one game if it’s played at the Cell, and a few extra black and gold shirts when it’s played at the Bradley Center. Other than that, UWM is just another sub-150 RPI team Marquette plays in the beginning of the season.

    I understand how it’s tough to surge from mid-major to high-major (which of course, UWM wants) when you get no respect from high-major teams, but there’s only so much room at the top. And when you’re not already at the top, you don’t get respect unless you win, and win surprisingly (a la Creighton this year). So if UWM starts winning the Horizon league, gets in the NCAA tourney again (their Sweet 16 run was impressive) and becoming a top-50 RPI team, Marquette and Wisconsin might negotiate a 3-1 or 2-1 deal.

    Until then, I wish UWM the best in the Horizon league and look forward to seeing them in the Bradley Center again this year.

  3. John

    December 14, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Also, forgot to mention, Marquette is in an “everything to lose, nothing to gain” position. If Marquette wins, we got 40-0 against UWM and do exactly what we are supposed to. If Marquette loses, we get jeers and taunts from UWM fans about how overrated Marquette is and how pathetic it is that we pay that much for our degrees.

    It’s exactly the opposite for UWM. Everything to gain, nothing to lose. They lose, it’s expected. They win, they get publicity, an away game they win without having traveled, and a resurgence of hate towards Marquette.

    Personally, and it’s not that I’m “chicken” to play UWM, I’d rather just play a different team from the Horizon league so that doesn’t happen. It’s basically the same thing–top 100/150 RPI team cupcake, low travel, easy win–without the risk of losing to a crosstown “rival” (you can’t even call it a rivalry).

    I realize it’s completely hypocritical–as Marquette fans, we’re sometimes bitter at the snobby Wisconsin fans when they call our annual game “Marquette’s superbowl” and brush off the rivalry we have with them. Well, the way you get them to take you seriously is you come in to the Kohl Center, upset a top-10 Wisconsin team, and impress all of ESPN. Done. Wisconsin fans won’t have the snot-nosed attitude this year.

    That’s what UWM needs to do, and desperately. Get a win in the Bradley Center and upset #11 Marquette. Do that a few times, then we can talk about a 3-1 or 2-1 deal.

  4. Nic Waldron

    December 14, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    The time for MU to start playing Milwaukee again was the Bruce Pearl era. They ducked us until Pearl left and most of the players from the Sweet Sixteen squad had graduated and, thus, a true rivalry never generated. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the least bit angry at Marquette for letting their arrogance make them too short sighted to see that an annual Milwaukee-Marquette game could’ve become a huge annual event in SE Wisconsin during a time of year when we have little going on.

    But I agree if we can’t get any respect in our own state (which anyone who grew up in Milwaukee is already used to), then lets seek out A-10 and Big East schools like LaSalle, St. John’s, Fordham, UMass and Georgetown that play in large, east coast media markets and make our name that way. The only reason UW and MU get away with treating us like an annoying little brother is because they think we can’t do any better for ourselves, its time to let them know that’s not the case!

    • Jimmy Lemke

      December 14, 2011 at 8:38 pm

      I also think you’re being a little unfair to Marquette. They are in a no-win situation and Bruce wasn’t exactly kind when talking about a potential series.

  5. Pingback: What do you think of the future of the UW-MU series? « PantherU

  6. Wayne

    December 15, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Article is being ridiculed on Marquette’s Scout board already:

    • Jimmy Lemke

      December 15, 2011 at 10:21 am

      Surprise, the goons are on it.

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