COVID-19 has forced myriad disruptions to the college basketball schedule this year — so much so that they’re difficult to keep track of — but TV contract obligations may force one contest back onto the calendar, despite protests from both teams.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that while neither San Diego State nor UNLV has a particular desire to make up their early January matchup that had been postponed due to an outbreak in the Rebels program, the Mountain West’s new television contract may force the teams back onto the court.
The conference’s TV deal with CBS and Fox Sports has a minimum threshold for football and basketball games that the league is obliged to provide to the networks in order for the contract to be paid out in full. The Union-Tribune reports that the Mountain West has already lost out on 16 basketball games, many of which were intended for broadcast.
Ahead of this basketball season, the Mountain West purposely left the last week of the regular schedule blank in order to allow time to make-up games that were postponed prior to the league’s conference tournament. Now, however, many coaches don’t want to use the time to reschedule games — particularly those whose resumes make them a likely NCAA tournament selection such as San Diego State.
The Aztecs entered the week at No. 22 in the AP poll, and a loss in what some consider to be a meaningless game could cripple their chances of making the NCAA tournament field. For the conference, fewer tournament berths comes with financial ramifications, as each team to make the field would collect an estimated $280,000 in each of the six ensuing years. The further a team advances, the more money the conference can collect.
An additional point of concern is the possibility of exposing a likely NCAA tournament bound team to the virus.
Most conference decisions are made based on a vote by membership — but in this instance it was apparently left to commissioner Craig Thompson to find balance among all the competing interests and financial ramifications.
“I hope the league makes a decision that allows the Mountain West to get the most teams in the NCAA Tournament,” San Diego State head coach Brian Dutcher said earlier this month when asked about playing UNLV. “If that means we don’t play those games, then that’s what I’m in favor of. If (they) feel it’s better to play those games, then that’s what we’ll end up having to do. But in my opinion, we’d be better off not running the risk of playing those games for the teams that are already in solid positions.”