Baseball and basketball game scheduling proves difficult


Imagine Duke University coming to the Convocation Center for a non-conference battle with NIU.

Stop fantasizing, it won’t happen.

“We’re not gonna get Duke in here or Northern Carolina to ever come to Northern Illinois,” said Sundance Wicks, assistant men’s basketball coach.


“I’m not saying ever, but 99.1 percent,” he added

Close enough.

While Wicks, who is also the scheduling coordinator for the men’s team, would love to play Duke in DeKalb, he knows there are too many factors that come into play. One is money.

“Duke will never come here because they can just buy us to come to their place,” he said.

A powerhouse school such as Duke will simply pay a smaller school to play them on their home court. And with a throng of mid-major schools to select from, NIU’s chances are slim to ever getting that opportunity.

A common negotiating tactic among coaches scheduling non-conference games is to agree to a home-and-home series. This agreement lasts two years; the first year you play at your place, the next year you play at theirs or vice versa. Sometimes mid-major schools can get high-major schools to agree to do this if it benefits them.

“Oregon wanted to come here last year because they had a possible recruit that was going to sign with them from the Chicagoland area,” Wicks said. “So Oregon was like, ‘We’ll do a home-and-home [series] with you…if the recruit signs.'”

That plan fell through, but don’t think Wicks doesn’t try to get high-major schools to agree to a home-and-home series or a two-for-one series which would give NIU three games against a team — two of which are played away. Wicks said he sends out e-mails and telephone calls every year to all the high-major programs, but to no avail.

“We’d do a home-and-home series with any high-major in America,” he said. “But they wouldn’t do a home-and-home series with us.”

Wicks calls scheduling one of the most difficult things to do. No one can agree with him more than NIU head baseball coach Ed Mathey. While the two share many of the same reasons for that difficulty — students’ class schedules — there are differences.

“We’re different than basketball because we have a weather factor that comes into play,” Mathey said.

By the time weather is consistent enough to play at home, the 27-game MAC schedule begins for nine weekends in a row. Fitting high-major programs would then come during the week, something that is complicated by students’ class schedules.

“Most of our non-conference games we do during the week will be with schools within driving distance so we can get our kids back to class,” Mathey said.

Welcome to life as a mid-major program.