Why mid- and low-major college basketball programs are in big trouble without buy games

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Montana Grizzlies men’s basketball coach Travis DeCuire stayed close to his phone last week. The Grizzlies’ seventh-year coach was busy trying to salvage his Division I program’s nonconference schedule one week after the NCAA approved a Nov. 25 start date that was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In most years, the 49-year-old DeCuire would be asking opposing coaches and administrators the typical questions about the potential nonconference matchups that anchor his schedule. How much are you willing to pay? Commercial or chartered flight? How many hotel rooms for the program?

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The pandemic has changed those conversations, and DeCuire’s exchanges last week had a different tone. He wanted to know if schools were frequently testing players for COVID-19. What are the rates in your community? Can you promise that my team won’t have to run through multiple airports to get to your school?

“I want to know that they’re testing and the results are accurate,” he said. “I want to know that they’re negative before they get on the bus or the plane, if they come to play us.”

When Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of men’s basketball, announced that the season would commence two weeks after its original start date, the sport’s Power 5 programs — with the assistance of their ample budgets — began devising ideas about bubbles and regional matchups that aim to secure the health and safety of participants by limiting exposure.

For DeCuire and other mid-major coaches throughout the country, the road to the 2020-21 season isn’t that simple. The financial pipeline that will allow major programs to plow forward and play games isn’t accessible to non-Power 5 programs. There are more schools like Montana than like Duke in the Division I landscape of 350-plus college basketball programs.

Per the Knight