Thoughts on Ivy League’s conference scheduling changes

Ivy Hoops Online writers offer commentary on the Ivy League’s scheduling changes for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons, announced Tuesday:

Rob Browne:

I was pleased and relieved by the announced schedule.  I had concerns the league would move Saturday games to Sunday afternoon, which I felt would lessen attendance and viewership.  The actual changes preserves Friday/Saturday games (except the Martin Luther King Jr. Day games) and removes the unpopular back-to-back travel partner opening games.

The changes maintain the historic nature of the back-to-back weekends, while allowing the athletes several single-game weekends to rest and have more available time for academics.  It will be interesting to compare the participants’ feedback. as well as the quality of the games and attendance in the three different scenarios (back-to-back, Saturday-Monday & single games) for any future changes.

Stretching the schedule to 10 weeks shouldn’t be a problem, since the Penn and Princeton men have started the first Saturday after New Year over the last four seasons.  While student attendance may suffer the first two weekends, the new schedule will provide a level playing field with all teams playing conference games on the same days.

The schedule will thankfully force teams to schedule more games over the first two months and eliminate the empty time of early January.  The four two-game weekends will unfortunately create an imbalanced  schedule, but it seems to be a fair trade off when dealing with the changes the stakeholders wanted.

With this settled for the next two years, the league should spend time reviewing its earlier decisions on the Ivy Tournament and finding a way to stop ESPN from moving the start of certain Friday night games to the too-early time of 5:00.

Ray Curren:

As a traditionalist, I already miss the 14-Game Tournament, so I’m naturally inclined to dislike this newest change from the start. The back-to-backs are the thing that makes the Ivy League unique, and it seems like stretching 14 games over 10 weeks just isn’t a lot of basketball. Will they try to sneak nonconference games in those gaps? Against whom (except for Penn, of course)? Trying to see if Yale or Harvard could back up a Friday night win on the Upper West Side with a gutsy victory in Ithaca 24 hours later is just something you don’t get from any other conference and I will miss it on the weekends it doesn’t exist anymore.

With that being said, I know at least a plurality of the Ivy coaches hate the back-to-backs, from both a logistical and a preparation standpoint. Assistants stay up all night on Fridays putting together scouting reports and playing two straight days in different cities is not conducive to players performing at a high level. Playing on Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a nice touch and the single game weekends will allow everyone to get more rest and allow the competition to be stronger night in and night out.

Richard Kent: 

Not sure that I fully understand the rationale of the schedule changes. I don’t think that the existing format is broken, although I am not a fan of of the parade of Division III games in early January.
I think that the changes help the middle of the pack teams as they get a theoretical reprieve from playing the top teams back to back. That might help a team get into the Ivy League Tournament.
I don’t buy into any possible academic rationale or hubris. There are plenty of great schools like Northwestern, Stanford and Vanderbilt who play three games a week without suffering significant academic infirmities.
Mike Tony: 
This is a situation in which what’s best for the fans isn’t necessarily what’s best for the players, who must come first in any scheduling consideration.
In the span of four years, we’ve seen the Ivy League go from the 14-Game Tournament to embracing a limited number of back-to-backs with an Ivy League Tournament, stripping the league of its signature format that was so entertaining because it raised the stakes for each game. Wins matter more in a 14-Game Tournament, and seeing whether favored teams could meet the challenge of pulling off Saturday night wins on the road on the second leg of back-to-backs is fun for fans. The unique identity that came with a league schedule consisting mostly of back-to-backs has been cool for Ivy hoops fans to tout, too.
But in its press release announcing the move, the Ivy League didn’t claim that the scheduling change is about what’s best for the fans. It’s about the student-athletes, as it should be. Back-to-backs have long been a slog for players and coaches, and if two years of experimentation reveals an approach that’s easier on them, then this move will be worth it. And it should be easy for even the most ardent supporters of back-to-backs to appreciate travel partners getting the opportunity to close out the regular season against each other with clear stakes rather than anticlimactically finishing their home-and-home series on successive weekends in January.
Rob Browne and I analyzed the scheduling changes further on the latest episode of Inside Ivy Hoops.

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