It is a fact that non-conference games are essential to the growth of the Western Athletic Conference. Exposure, money, and the opportunity to play the best can make a huge impact on the brand. Think about 2017 when Utah Valley nearly knocked off No. 3 Kentucky at Rupp Arena. People talked about the Wolverines despite knowing nothing of Utah Valley. What about the dominance that New Mexico State has shown over rivals UTEP and New Mexico in recent years?
It all adds up. Talking to one athletic director, his men’s basketball team could lose near to $1 million if non-conference games aren’t played. For some programs, the non-conference games pay a good portion of the athletic budget each season.
Those schools that have football know all about the importance of guarantee games. New Mexico State, Tarleton State and Dixie State will rely heavily on the money that comes from guarantee games if they are played.
A representative of the WAC told WAC Hoops Digest, “if we are extra cautious now, we might be able to keep a good amount of non-conference basketball, which at least in the WAC is where guarantees come into play.”
For WAC Hoops, the non-conference slate is looking really solid. Newcomer Tarleton State has games against Gonzaga and UCLA. Utah Valley is playing BYU, Utah, Air Force, Wyoming and Texas among others. GCU finally gets a game against in-state and crosstown foe Arizona State. This might be the biggest game of them all considering Arizona State has said for years they would never play GCU. California Baptist has Arizona, Maryland and Duquesne on its schedule. As always, New Mexico State plays UTEP and New Mexico twice along with Santa Clara. Dixie State takes on Utah State and Southern Utah.
And it was reported on Friday morning that UTRGV will take on Baylor. The list goes on and on.
Source: Baylor will host UT Rio Grande Valley as part of its 20-21 non-conference schedule.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) July 30, 2020
But, as we all know, Covid-19 has played a huge part in disrupting life. As a result, conference tournaments shut down while the NBA and MLS play in a bubble. Unfortunately, it has just been one crazy thing after another.
The worst part is that it’s still unknown if non-conference games will happen. Rumors swirl about in-state, non-conference games happening due to less travel. This is good news for the likes of Utah Valley, New Mexico State and California Baptist if it plays out like this. But, we won’t know more about these scenarios for some time.
There is hope the 2020-21 season will go off without a hitch. Doubtful, as we have seen in Major League Baseball’s restart. But, hopefully plans are in place to keep some, if not all, of the big time non-conference games that WAC Hoops teams have on the schedule for 2020-21.