I love it when data speaks for itself. It doesn’t happen often, but I believe I’ve found one of those cases.
When it was revealed last summer that the RPI would be altered to give an undisclosed bonus to road wins and then when the formula was announced last summer, it was hailed as a boon for teams in non-power conferences. Not only would they be rewarded with a boost in the RPI for all of the non-conference road games they have to play, but they would also reap the benefit of power conference teams that want to take advantage of the road win component of the RPI. Power conference teams would in turn schedule a few more road games because of the new formula. Life would be great.
I recall this claim being rather common. Unfortunately, the only example I can find at the moment is from Dick Vitale.
[The new RPI] will become a factor as schools realize the added importance of winning on the road. Also look for this to influence scheduling in the future, because a big road win will help even more on the road to securing a bid to the Big Dance. Dick Vitale, espn.com, 12/27/04.
Dick Vitale didn’t get to where he is because of his journalistic prowess, so I feel a little sheepish about singling him out. And to be precise, he doesn’t specifically claim that power-conference teams will schedule more road games. But I received e-mails last season from people wondering if the new formula would spur the kind of movement that Vitale alluded to. Now that schedules are set for this season, we know the answer.
Power conference non-conference games Home Road %Home 2002-2005 1655 341 82.9 2006 451 86 84.0
The numbers represent games played by power conference teams against teams from outside the power conferences. By a power conference team, I mean a member of the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10, or SEC. By 2006, I mean this season, and 2002-2005 represents the previous four seasons combined. The data ignores (nearly) all games played on psuedo-home courts and games against teams outside of Division I.
So with that said, nothing more needs to be said. I will add the caveat that this season’s data does not contain games that haven’t been scheduled yet, and I am referring to in-season tournament games that will played on home courts like the second round games of the Guardians Classic and Preseason NIT. I expect that this will push the percentage of home games incrementally higher for the power conferences.
We can only speculate on the reason for the lack of change in scheduling practices, but to me it’s clear. Teams with the big budgets are not willing to trade two or three spots in the RPI for the money that home dates bring in. This may come back to haunt one or two teams each season, thereby costing them revenue they would get from the NCAA Tournament, but most schools are willing to take that risk.
To give you an idea of how little things have changed, Syracuse will play their first game in a hostile arena the same night as Baylor – and due to NCAA sanctions, Baylor doesn’t start its season until the second week of January. Washington takes the cake by waiting until January 12th to hit the road.
For those that are curious, here is the breakdown of true home and road non-conference games for all conferences. Only games against Division I opponents are included.
Home Road %Home Big XII 86 18 82.7 SEC 92 25 78.6 Big East 115 33 77.7 ACC 90 28 76.3 Pac 10 55 18 75.3 Big Ten 76 27 73.8 MWC 58 26 69.0 CUSA 73 48 60.3 Atlantic 10 82 57 59.0 MVC 40 29 58.0 WCC 44 40 52.4 WAC 43 40 51.8 CAA 40 43 48.2 Horizon 35 40 46.7 MAC 34 42 44.7 Ivy League 40 50 44.4 Patriot 35 47 42.7 Big Sky 28 39 41.8 Big West 32 45 41.6 Sun Belt 41 62 39.8 MAAC 27 41 39.7 SoCon 32 56 36.4 NEC 30 53 36.1 America East 30 54 35.7 Independents 49 98 33.3 OVC 14 34 29.2 MidCon 20 51 28.2 Southland 21 54 28.0 Big South 16 43 27.1 Atlantic Sun 17 48 26.2 MEAC 16 68 19.0 SWAC 6 60 9.1