What Is Involved in Scheduling College Football and Basketball Games?
So, you still think being an athletic director for a major university is an easy job? Think again. For instance, scheduling games in all sports and at all divisions has become increasingly more complex. The need to have open dates to play in busy arenas, transportation costs for each team, referee availability, weather concerns, gasoline costs, and housing costs all make the process very complex.
The first case is the scheduling of a University of Michigan versus University of Massachusetts (UMass) football game in 2012. This would be a rematch against Michigan and would be played at Michigan Stadium. Why would Michigan, with a stadium that sits around 100,000 fans, want to play UMass, with a home stadium that fits only a few thousand fans? First of all, on April 20, 2011, UMass announced its move to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the MidAmerican Conference (MAC) and would play a full FBS and MAC schedule beginning with the 2012 football season. Thus it wanted to develop a strong nonconference schedule that would help build its growing football program.90 Secondly, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon was looking for a game with a lower-tier opponent since Michigan had a difficult schedule against many college football powerhouses, such as Alabama, Notre Dame, and Nebraska.91 Lastly, UMass was happy to receive $650,000 to help build its football program. A second case involving UMass was an unfortunate cancellation of the University of Kentucky versus UMass basketball game during the 2007-2008 basketball season. Travis Ford, the UMass coach, had a personal connection with Kentucky since he had been a star basketball player for Kentucky. Kentucky coach Tubby Smith helped arranged a game between Kentucky and Ford’s UMass team, which was to be played in Boston. However, Tubby changed coaching jobs (he went to the University of Minnesota) soon after the 2006 season. The new Kentucky coach, Billy Gillispie, decided not to play UMass in Boston as prearranged. The result was not only a cancellation of a single game, but also a great deal of dysfunctional conflict between the athletic administrations at the two schools. Instead of having started a positive long-term relationship, it seemed more likely that the two colleges would be unwilling to trust each other. In essence, Kentucky used its long history as a basketball powerhouse to coerce UMass into making last-minute changes. There might have been a good basketball reason for Kentucky to cancel the game, but it felt more as though Kentucky was exhibiting its superior attitude as a team that had a much richer tradition of success in collegiate basketball. What could be some of the reasons to cancel a scheduled game and create so much dysfunctional conflict between the two parties? First, it is possible that Gillispie wanted to minimize the number of road trips during the season. Second, he might have believed that the long road trip to Boston was not worth the effort. Third, he might have preferred to play (and hopefully win) against a higher-ranked opponent that would give Kentucky a higher ranking at the end of the season. Fourth, the personal connection that Ford had with Kentucky was not strong enough for either Ford or UMass AD John McCutcheon to use to save the game. Either way, Kentucky and Gillispie controlled the situation and forced the cancellation. Kentucky paid a prearranged cancellation fee of U.S.$50,000. UMass ultimately lost an expected U.S.$300,000 in revenue that the game would have generated. Maybe the real lesson was learned by UMass AD McCutcheon, who said, “This is a bad practice and maybe next time we should have a higher buyout.”92 For more information on the game that was never played, visit the following ESPN website:
Support your answers to the following questions with specifics from the case and text or with information you get from the web and other sources.
1. Which type of power base did the University of Kentucky use when it cancelled its game with UMass?
2. Which type of power did Michigan’s AD use when Michigan worked closely with UMass?
3. The scheduling of collegiate basketball games has nothing to do with organizational politics.
4. Are attitudes an issue in the Kentucky–UMass case?
5. What style of conflict management was used by the Kentucky athletic department to resolve the problem with UMass?
6. Did Michigan and UMass achieve a win–win situation?
7. Did the University of Kentucky and UMass achieve a win–win situation?
8. What type of conflict was involved in the Kentucky–UMass case?
9. What type of stress was placed on the UMass athletic director John McCutcheon?
10. Why do conflicts arise when scheduling collegiate basketball and football games?