Wichita State and New Mexico State want to play a men’s basketball game later this season. Both agree on that.
The hard part is finding a date. There are two promising openings to place the game that was scheduled for Monday at Koch Arena and postponed when a snow storm canceled commercial flights for the Aggies out of El Paso, Texas.
“I think it’s pretty important for many reasons,” WSU interim athletic director Darron Boatright said. “From the strategy of our non-conference schedule, to maximizing playing date for our team and their progress. We just have to work together and find potential dates.”
The aggrieved party is WSU, so New Mexico State is open to suggestions. The Shockers play at home on Jan. 23 (Bradley) and Jan. 27 (Loyola), leaving open, perhaps, a spot for a game in between. New Mexico State plays on the road Jan. 23 and is off until Jan. 30.
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Even more appealing, from a scheduling standpoint, is mid-February. The Shockers play at home on Feb. 13 (Northern Iowa) and Feb. 18 (Missouri State). The Aggies play at Chicago State on Feb. 13 and play a home game on Feb. 18.
“Nobody likes to play three games in a week,” New Mexico State athletic director Mario Moccia said. “Is there a gap that might make some sense? Obviously, we’ll defer to them.”
WSU wants to play because the Aggies, potentially, can help their win total and power ranking (RPI). New Mexico State’s history of success is the biggest reason WSU is paying $125,000 for the Aggies to play at Koch Arena. Boatright and coach Gregg Marshall will weigh the importance of the game as an NCAA Tournament resume builder against the downside of wedging a game into January or February, an already taxing time for athletes.
“That’s asking a lot from your players, and the wear and tear on their bodies,” Boatright said.
There are scenarios in which WSU needs that game, allowing it work like the Bracket Busters series did in past seasons. There are also scenarios in which the Shockers get to February with little desire to play a non-conference opponent in the midst of an MVC race, again, sort of like how Bracket Busters worked.
The athletic directors will talk in the next few days to work on a date.
That’s asking a lot from your players, and the wear and tear on their bodies”
WSU interim director of athletics Darron Boatright on fitting a makeup game in during the conference season
“Both parties want to get the game in this year,” Moccia said. “I’m sure we’d all like to get it on the books.”
Moccia said his team worked with two charter companies and contacted the NCAA for help with a plane when plans to fly commercially on Sunday failed. They looked at flying out of Albuquerque and Tucson. New Mexico State is located in Las Cruces and usually travels commercial out of El Paso, about 46 miles away. The Aggies don’t use chartered planes for normal travel.
“So we were calling somebody at the last minute you don’t do business with,” he said.
In addition to the $125,000 guarantee, the contract calls for a $50,000 penalty if the game is canceled.
“There’s a financial piece we can ill afford to forgo,” Moccia said. “We’re going to do whatever we can to play the game.”
While the teams could move the game to a future season, Boatright said that isn’t an automatic solution.
“This is a game that was contracted for a specific date,” he said. “Everything would become null and void at that point. We haven’t had any discussions (regarding the penalty), because both sides are wanting to play the game.”
Boatright said his staff is discussing how to deal with the possibility of refunds for ticket holders for Monday’s game, in case of cancellation. Because of semester break, more tickets than normal were purchased from the student allotment.
WSU is out around $6,000 owed to the game’s officials — Tom Eades, John Higgins and Bert Smith. All three were in Wichita for the game. None of them would have been available Tuesday, when the teams attempted to play. Boatright said Missouri Valley Conference coordinator of officials Eddie Jackson would have found a new crew had that game been played.
Should the game be rescheduled, Boatright said Cox 22 retains the rights to televise.