Ethan Sears: Jim Delany admitted one scheduling mistake. Now it's time to talk about the other.
Last Friday, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany did something exceedingly rare for anybody involved in college athletics to do: He admitted a mistake.
Delany told the Chicago Tribune that moving the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament up a week to play at Madison Square Garden was a bad idea, citing a condensed schedule that required starting conference play in December and packing sometimes as many as three games into a week. Good on him for admitting the error, but it would be nice to see the same attention paid to the women’s side by the guy who’s supposed to run the whole conference.
The women are also suiting up to play this week, in Indianapolis. If you weren’t aware, you aren’t alone. One of the side effects of moving the men’s tournament up was the women’s tournament getting bumped to streaming services and RSN’s until the semifinals.
Of course, it’s not likely many people will watch the women when the men are playing at the same time, on a network easier to access. But it shouldn’t have to be like that.
The women are slated to get seven teams in the NCAA Tournament in ESPN’s latest Bracketology. General agreement seems to indicate the men will get four, perhaps five if Nebraska goes on a run this week. Perhaps they should be given some attention, if nothing else on account of being a better league, but Delany seems to have forgotten about this in his mea culpa.
Another bout of forgetfulness on the commissioner’s part: the women also played a tightly packed schedule to have their tournament this week. It just wasn’t new to them. In 2015-16, they played 18 conference games in 60 days without getting the World’s Most Famous Arena as a payoff.
“(The schedule) wasn’t good,” Delany told the Tribune. “Wasn’t healthy. I thought starting (the conference schedule early was OK, but if you look at our schedules (through the years), we’ve been able to give everybody two-day prep (before games) in 99 percent of the cases.
“We won’t do it again this way, and I take responsibility for asking the coaches.”
Funny how he’s never issued a similar apology on the women’s side, where the schedule ventures into absurdity at times. Take Michigan as Exhibit A.
The Wolverines played four times Feb. 4-14, including three times on the road. Then, they had an eight-day break before their season-ending matchup against Maryland, which led into yet another week-long break before their Big Ten Tournament opener on Thursday. Even if Michigan makes the Big Ten Tournament final, Selection Monday isn’t for another week. Like the men’s team, the women will be waiting potentially as long as two weeks between games.
Because ... why are they doing this again?
At least the men have a reason, poor as it may be: they wanted to play at Madison Square Garden. The women are playing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Indiana Pacers have home games the following week, sure, but does anybody doubt that problem could have been worked around had anybody bothered to care?
Logistics are hard when planning things like this. That’s understandable. But — if Delany is to be believed — efforts will be taken to right the wrong done on the men’s side. Their tournament will move back to Chicago or Indianapolis, the teams will be rested and everyone will go home happy.
If only the women could get the same treatment.