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