The Horizon League doesn’t like you very much, Panther fans

Despite having 24 television dates in the regular season, 22 of which have already been decided, the Horizon League has once again left Milwaukee in the cold by only having the Panthers on two television contests, both of which are road games.

The first match-up is a weekend tilt at Valparaiso on January 18th, which is an HLN Game of the Week and will be broadcast on ESPN3. The HLN Game of the Week is broadcast across all media markets in the conference, so Milwaukee’s sizable Chicago fan base will be able to see it (Seriously, we get a lot of hits from Chicago and many fans show up for UIC games). The second game is the February 8th afternoon game at Green Bay, also a GOTW.

To this I have to say…really? Look, I understand some things. I understand that coming off a ninth-place season, Milwaukee should expect to be treated below everyone else. I have no problem getting fewer television games than Valparaiso and Wright State, especially the latter. But two? Out of 22 games? The rest of the conference looks like this:

Oakland (8),Wright State (7), Green Bay (7) Valparaiso (6), Detroit (4) UIC (4), Youngstown State (3), Cleveland State (2).

Of these teams, only three don’t have home games: Milwaukee, YSU and CSU.

What this means is that of 41 slots for Horizon League teams (19 home and away conference, 3 non-conference), one-third of the conference is only given 17% of the television spots. I smell inequity here, especially considering Youngstown State has one of the favorites for Player of the Year, Cleveland State has one of the best coaches and a lineup returning Anton Grady, and Milwaukee is going back to the Cell, where we averaged over 4,000 each of the last two years we were there. The absence of the Cell is why so many people dropped off in season ticket sales; many of them are coming back now that the Panthers are headed back downtown.

The Cell is one of two places in the Horizon League that can pack a 10,000-seat arena for a Championship game. The other is the Nutter Center.  The Horizon League was absolutely right in putting a majority of Wright State’s television games in the Nutter Center.

What really grinds my gears about this is that Milwaukee puts the biggest student section out there, and it’s far bigger on days when the program can market “ESPN” to students. Man,

And what about helping YSU and CSU? The two schools who need all the help they can get to put people in the seats have major trouble without the four-letter network. TV games at YSU can come close to packing the Beeghly Center; if this conference is going to convince YSU that it needs to pump money into its basketball budget, they’re going to need good faith to believe that they can actually sell tickets for the sport. Otherwise they’ll just continue putting every last scrap into football, a sport that does nothing for the conference.

As for Cleveland State, they’re churning their wheels in the mud as the only college basketball team in Cleveland. Their students may not understand Wright State or Oakland, but they damn sure understand ESPN. By only giving six of the nine schools home games in the national TV schedule, you’re missing an opportunity to help out the entire conference. Does Oakland really need eight games? And do five of them need to be home games?

On a side note: how the hell is the Oakland at Detroit game not one of the ESPNU games? Did you not understand Greg Kampe? The guy is the closest thing we’ve since to Bruce Pearl in this conference since Bruce Pearl. When he says he’s bringing 1,000 students to Calihan, he’s not screwing around.

I’m still completely certain that the Horizon League is a conference that takes scheduling, especially when it comes to men’s basketball, far too lightly. With a myriad of schools that operate on different academic calendars, it should be easy for them to avoid giving schools big home games with students gone. But I see the conference is still shoving home games on schools that will be missing students. That January 4th matchup – where Youngstown State visits Green Bay three weeks before students return to UWGB – looks particularly putrid. You have schools that come back the first week of January, second week, third week and fourth week. Is it too hard to put those teams whose students are gone on the road? I bet that the conference would cut down considerably on bad matchups like January 4th (Game of the Week. I snorted when I read that) if they had someone working exclusively on the schedules who was mindful of the academic calendars at each school.

I’ll even offer up my services. Give me $3,000 per season and I’ll do all men’s basketball scheduling, as well as coordinate with ESPN (and Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports, channels we should be talking to for crying out loud) to make sure they get the best games for television consumption. Everybody wins.

Instead, what you’re looking at is a whole lot of ho-hum games on the TV schedule and a bunch of conference home games being scheduled while students are out of town.

Link: Horizon League television schedule

One Comment

  1. Boyee

    September 7, 2013 at 1:04 am

    Seeing as the Horizon League is a much diluted product now that they lost 2 schools recently (Butler (the strongest athletic school) and Loyola U. Chicago) and only added one more (Oakland U.) That are also showing the more of the 2 most successful teams still in the league Wright State and Valparaiso. The Horizon League should really try to add at least one more team, they should try to add 3 of the following:Belmont, Murray State, Northern Kentucky, IUPUI, SIU Edwardsville, UMKC, Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois, Chicago State or Evansville. This will likely prevent more teams from leaving the Horizon League. I think IUPUI, Murray State and Belmont would be the best 3 to add as IUPUI is in Indy, like Butler was.

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