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Basketball: Economics drive Cajuns schedule


Basketball: Economics drive Cajuns schedule

Cajuns have just one non-league air trip in 2009-10
Joshua Parrott
June 10, 2009

With colleges and universities nationwide facing budget cuts and economic concerns, the UL men's basketball team will stay closer to home for non-conference games in the future.

The Cajuns - who have traveled to Utah, Hawaii, California, Arizona and Nevada outside Sun Belt play in the past six years - will fly to only one of their six non-league road games during the 2009-10 season.

That one flight will be to play Louisville on Dec. 23. The Cajuns will receive a guaranteed payout of $80,000 for the match-up against the Big East opponent.

UL's other five non-conference road games are within driving distance of Lafayette. Those contests include McNeese State (Nov. 28), LSU (Dec. 1), Sam Houston State (Dec. 5), Southern Miss (Dec. 15) and Lamar (Dec. 19).

Cajun fans can expect more regional opponents on the non-conference schedule moving forward.

"I think the days of paying big guarantees are going to be rarer, especially in basketball," said UL athletic director David Walker. "Basketball isn't like football, where the bigger schools are making more revenue and can still afford to (pay big guarantees)."

In men's basketball, schools from power conferences have regularly handed out paid guarantees for home games against programs from lesser leagues.

But money issues are keeping more teams, regardless of conference, closer to home. That will likely result in more home-and-homes (playing an opponent once at home and once on the road) instead of guaranteed games and 2-for-1s (play a team twice at home with one return trip) nationwide this upcoming season.

That should benefit UL, Walker said, because more high-profile teams will be willing to play the Cajuns in home-and-homes to save money.

After opening the season at home on Nov. 14 against Southern Miss, the Cajuns later welcome NCAA Division III opponent Louisiana College (Nov. 16), D-III school Mobile (Nov. 24), Tulane (Dec. 21) and Centenary (Dec. 28) to the Cajundome.

LSU will pay a guarantee of $55,000 for the final game in the two-year contract to play UL in Baton Rouge. Mobile ($5,000 plus hotel) and Louisiana College ($6,000) will receive guarantees from the Cajuns to come to Lafayette this season.

The road games against McNeese State, Sam Houston State and Lamar are return trips under home-and-home agreements. The two Southern Miss games are under a home-and-home deal.

UL, which opens Sun Belt play on Dec. 12 at home against Florida Atlantic, will fulfill home-and-homes against Centenary and Tulane by playing both teams on the road during the 2010-11 season.

According to Walker, all of the contracts for the non-conference games have been signed. Centenary recently expressed interest in dropping down to the D-III ranks, but the Associated Press reported last week that the school must give the Summit League two years notice to leave.

Walker added that Rice has sent a letter to Conference USA league office, asking that C-USA teams play more Sun Belt opponents in their respective region.

"With everyone cutting travel squad sizes and the number of flights, I think it's a good move," Walker said. "The good thing about that is that there are plenty of good teams in our region."

The addition of Tulane - which leads UL in the all-time series, 20-2 - to the home schedule is somewhat of a surprise. The Green Wave has never played UL in the Cajundome. In fact, the two schools haven't played each other in men's basketball since Tulane's 64-53 win at home on Feb. 23, 1985 - the season before the Cajuns moved into the Cajundome.

UL last played Southern Miss in 2001 and trails the all-time series, 36-46. Despite that stretch between games, the Cajuns have played only four opponents - Louisiana Tech (165), Northwestern State (138), Louisiana College (129) and McNeese State (83) - more often on the court in their history.

"What we were trying to do, Southern Miss was trying to do and Tulane was trying to do was find more games within driving distance," said UL coach Robert Lee. "All of our non-conference schedule is a bus ride to get there but the Louisville game, so I think we accomplished that."

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