Scheduling Thoughts: PGA Tour & NCAA

A couple of articles, both related to scheduling, caught my attention recently.  First, Bob Harig at ESPN ponders “Why the No Shows for the PGA Tour Opener?”. Eleven of the players eligible for the elite, winners-only kickoff to the PGA season skipped the event, including 3 of the 4 major winners from last year, Rory McIlroy, Charles Schwartzel, and Darren Clarke, along with big names like Phil Mickelson.  That’s over 25% no shows for a no-cut, guaranteed payoff event (last place paid out $64,000).  As Harig says,

No sport starts its season with as little fanfare, as little buzz, as the PGA Tour.

He identifies several contributors: injury, short offseason, many other opportunities to make money, competition with NFL playoffs.  I want to single out the long season/number of events for scrutiny.  The choice of more (or fewer) events presents a very difficult tradeoff.  A long season provides many hours of TV exposure, and dedicated intermediaries like NBC’s Golf Channel like this.  (Of course, the long schedule preceded the Golf Channel’s tour coverage).  The down side is that it means more opportunities for players to cherry pick their favored events, with fewer times where the best play against the best which enhances the quality of watching for consumers.  In addition, a longer season pits the tour on weekends in January against big NFL games.  The tour made a shift in the Kapalua event this year to a Monday finish to try to mitigate this impact, but this loses the bigger Sunday audience.  As I’ve written before on the NBA, leagues and or their TV-associates seem very reluctant to experiment with shorter seasons.

The second scheduling article appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal , where Jared Diamond details the small (or non-existent) number of true road games played by the big dogs among NCAA basketball teams (the same issue is also prevalent among football teams.)  Kentucky, North Carolina, and Duke have played no non-conference road games, Kansas one. Louisville had also played no road games until its Dec. 31 rivalry game against Kentucky.  Last night the Cards lost by 30 at Providence.

The financial incentives are obvious.  The issue that I would raise is the lack of adjustment in things like RPI or polls for such home-cooking.  The NCAA tournament selection committee often hides behind “quality wins” and records against top x (50, 70, …) teams to justify their selections and seedings.   However, these matchups in non-conference games are heavily biased toward teams playing at home all of the time.  That’s why games from prior year tournaments on neutral (or somewhat neutral) courts are really more informational than the selection committee seems to utilize.   Of course, the same financial incentives at work in why the big dogs play at home so much are also at work, maybe more subtly, in the politics behind selection committee decisions.



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Author: Brian Goff

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4 thoughts on “Scheduling Thoughts: PGA Tour & NCAA”

  1. Kentucky played at Indiana. UNC played at Kentucky this year. Duke played at Ohio State and Temple (Wells Fargo Center is close enough). Do you mean to claim that Kentucky, UNC, and Duke do not have a single non-conference road win?

  2. I bet if pro golfers lived in N. Dakota or Montana the idea of spending a week playing golf in Hawaii would be compelling. But I suspect most pro golfers can walk out to their back porch in shorts any time of the year and don’t have to travel across the ocean to enjoy the weather.

    Plus golfers pay their own expenses of travel and they make the rational decision that there are easier ways to make a guaranteed 64k. While most golfers would jump at the chance to go to Hawaii, a tournament of champions is by definition the best of the best and they are going to have a lot more chances to make money than some guy just up from the Nike tour.

    Coming so soon after the holidays means these pros have to gear up their game in anticipation of playing. Unless they are scrounging for a paycheck, they value their downtime more than a chance at a check.

    For college teams, the big teams know there is no penalty for not playing tough road games. Until the selection committees are made up of people from the Boise States of the NCAA the Dukes Louisvilles know where they win is less important than that they win.

  3. Carolina played a neutral court game vs. Michigan State in San Diego, then played at UNC-Asheville in Asheville, had two homes games, then played two games in Las Vegas versus South Carolina and then UNLV, followed by a home game then traveled to Lexington to play Kentucky. Carolina doesn’t play as many non-conference road games as they used to, but they certainly don’t have any.

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