Scheduling Q and A With DOBO Matt Pappano
By popular demand we fielded questions for St. Bonaventure’s Director of Basketball Operations, Matt Pappano. Pappano has been working with coach Schmidt since his first day in Olean and has been the master of all things scheduling for the Bonnies for nearly a decade now. He was kind enough to give us an hour of his time to interact with Bonnies fans and give them a more clear window into scheduling; a very hot topic. We thank him for his time and look forward to chatting with him again soon on more Operations topics. Also, thanks to all the readers who provided lots of quality questions to pass along. Enjoy the Q and A.
Has there been a priority placed on getting afternoon starting times at the RC weekend games instead of night games or are all the afternoon games just a matter of circumstance? T.V. dictates game times in many cases these days, so that plays a huge factor in the start times. We have tried to do more 4 PM tips, that’s what the program has decided in terms of crowd and atmosphere. So we try for the afternoon games for the most part and coach, as well as the department prefer the afternoon starts on the weekends. We do like to have a few Saturday 7PM tips, but for the most part we’ve decided that the afternoon games work best for a number of reasons.
Does the A10 really have a rule where teams can only be ‘bought’ once? No. They do have some scheduling rules but that’s not one of them. They like you to play 60% or more of your non-conference games at home though.
In terms of the Rochester series, is the goal still to get an OOC opponent with a big name and it’s just not working out, or have we moved on to just making it a conference game by choice? It kind of went to a conference game because we have trouble getting a P5 school in there, so yes it has been kind of a matter of circumstance. We think the conference route works better than a smaller name team coming in there though and we’ve done well with that in terms of result and crowd numbers. We’re happy having the conference game there right now, but yes, that did come about as a matter of circumstance.
Have you called Power 5 schools and simply said, “We’re willing to play you anytime at your place” and if so what’s the general response? With the P5 a lot won’t play us at all and if they will the only way is if they buy us. We have had zero luck with doing a home and home with a power five, even in Rochester. True home and homes are impossible for us. We’ve never come close to agreeing to a 2-1, coach likes to do straight two year deals when scheduling.
Will we ever see a Power 5 school play in Olean again? We hope so, but probably not to be honest. We are trying to make it happen but we don’t see it playing out anytime soon as much as we’d like it.
Any chance the Syracuse game A) becomes a yearly occurrence or B) would ever be played at a neutral site such as Rochester? We’ve love to play them every single year but it hasn’t worked out on their end. They haven’t been interested in a home and home in Rochester. We will keep trying but it’s really up to them. We aren’t against going there to the Dome but it didn’t work out this year despite our efforts. We’d love to play Syracuse every year.
The last two years it seems we have limited our OOC games to the East Coast and almost nearly the Northeast (the Texas tourney being an exemption). Is that by design? And if so, why? Is it financial? A little bit of both. Last year we didn’t leave NY until January, that wasn’t just for saving money, it just kind of worked out that way, but we do try to limit travel and save time and money when it makes sense. This year is a little different with Florida and Texas, so it’s a combination of being smart with money and travel logistics. Olean isn’t the easiest place to get in and out of either, so that makes it more difficult. There’s a lot of aspects to scheduling but when we can stay close to home we prefer to if the fit is right.
Why hasn’t St. Bona established more of a home-home with nearby schools such as the University of Akron and Kent State (arguably the elite of the MAC)? It takes two to tango, so we’re always trying to play teams such as those, but it hasn’t worked out recently. We’ve had good success with those programs in the past but it hasn’t worked out in the last few weeks. We did have a four year deal with Ohio though at one point which worked out great. Those are the types of programs we try to schedule whenever we can.
At least one poster has floated the idea of holding a game in Toronto instead of Rochester. Has that ever been considered a serious option? If not, why not? It has actually been considered as an option. We have talked about it a good deal after Andrew left in 2012. We recruit from there so don’t be shocked if it happens in the next few years, we are working on something up there. We are willing to consider any creative schedule idea and that’s one of them. I couldn’t give you a date but I’m confident that we will play a game in Canada in the future.
Are we already scheduled for another tournament for next season that was a part of a deal for playing in the lone star this year? Yes we are, we can’t say anymore but we are locked in for one next year (2017) and working on more for the years that follow. What I can say is that we are in one, we will be playing two schools from the Power Five and those games will be on National T.V.
Is there an overriding scheduling philosophy/formula? (A few cupcakes, one Power 5 …) We do have a philosophy, but that can change year to year depending on what you have coming back from roster standpoint. The scheduling kind of depends on the roster and expectations. We always want six non-conference home games and 14-15 games in total. We always try to get one power five on the schedule. We are starting to this year, try for a tournament each season like the one in Austin this Thanksgiving. We are trying to get that done each year going forward and like I mentioned, have done that for 2017 as well.
How far out in advance is the school scheduling? In football, I know it’s years. Or is the scheduling still coming together in the weeks and months leading up to the season? It’s kind of a combination because of the two and four year deals, but we still work on scheduling all year. It never ends, it’s a 365 days a year job. So we are working right up to the season, but we do know a good number of teams that we will play because of those long term, multi-year deals and the natural rivals like Canisius, Niagara, Siena, etc..
Are you still hustling people at Barlett? I’m doing “ok “on the course this summer. I’m up and down, I shoot in the high 70’s to the low 90’s. Just need to be more consistent.
Have we ever kicked around the idea of playing in some of those summer exhibition trips like Dayton did this year? I think Wichita State played in Canada this summer. Canada would make sense for us. We have talked about this over the years, and it comes up in the Spring. Unfortunately, for us it is really a money decision that makes it tough to carry out. A Europe trip runs well over 100K for the most part. We are hoping to do it at some point, but we’d like to go to Europe for the kids sake and not just across the boarder to Canada. So, we’re still trying to make that happen in the future. We’ve love to do it, but if we are we want to do it right and that’s not easy to do financially.
I know discussions have been going around how the A10 moved to the 18 game conference schedule we have been getting fewer at large bids. Do we prefer the 18 game or 16 game A10 schedule. For us, we like the 18 game schedule because it’s so hard to get games, and get good games in the non-conference. This gives us two good games a season we can count on. We don’t have the money to go out and buy two good games like other teams do. It may not work for all schools but for us, we like the 18 game schedule and what it provides for the schedule.
How much input does Bonaventure have on when league games are? They do ask every member school to fill out a form and provide it to them, so they take it into account. But, at the end of the day you really have no say and so much is about the TV package which has been great for the league. Ultimately, we’re at the mercy of the conference about days of games.
Has it become harder or easier to schedule in recent year’s vs. earlier seasons given our success? It’s kind of both. Depends who you’re dealing with on the other side of the phone. Some teams now won’t touch us because they’re worried they won’t beat us whereas year’s ago that would never have been the case. Other P5 schools consider us now, because they know we are a quality team who will be good each season under coach. The Hofstra games and UNCW game this year are good examples of that. Our goal is get P5 home and homes, and high profile neutral games, so if we sustain winning seasons those games may become easier to land. We’d love to be able to schedule like a Xavier or Butler but it’s hard to do.
Has the Big 4 considered doing a single weekend where all teams play one another in a 3 day span in Buffalo? There’s been talks about a formal tournament over the years, lots of talk about different tournaments and formats. But, then someone is giving up home games which is a huge ask and something teams don’t want to do. Add that to the Rochester game and you’re giving up even more home games in the RC which is not ideal.
What is SBU’s focal point in scheduling? (RPIs of other teams, ticket sales, recruiting, regionalization, …) At the end of the day we’re trying to put ourselves in the best position from a basketball standpoint. We love going to NYC every year because of the alumni base, so that’s something we’ve tried to do, get to NYC every single year. So we’ve tried to get in there each season for the alumni and the energy they give us. But scheduling is done for the basketball side, other stuff comes into play but it’s all about the team and doing whatever gives us the best chance of a postseason berth.
How hard is it to forecast what the NCAA wants you to do? Scheduling is a moving target which makes it incredibly hard and almost impossible for teams like us and Monmouth, for example. They can move the criteria to align with whatever teams they accept on that given year. Monmouth did exactly what they were asked, win big road games against the P5 and still got left out. It’s almost impossible to figure. Getting quality games is so hard to do for our program. We can be told “go schedule X-Y-Z in the non-conference” but at the end of the day, almost none of those teams will play us. There’s only so much we can do. The criteria is never firm and when you’re a program like ours scheduling a handful of P5 schools is nearly impossible. You don’t know at the end of the day what the NCAA wants which makes it really hard to do.
What about teams in conferences in similar scheduling situations as St. Bona? (Conference USA, the mid level American Athletic schools, MVC, MAC. We love to play teams from those leagues, I talked to almost every school in the country during the year to try to make it work. A Monmouth, Steven F. Austin, Middle Tennessee State, etc. Everyone wants home games though and so it becomes a stare-down in terms of who’s going to budge on that front. We do talk with teams who are in the same boat as us (noted above), sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We’re always working the phone, it’s an inexact science though so you need to keep grinding at it. We’ve been very close with a number of teams with similar profiles as us but lots of them fall through for various reasons.
Have the Bonnies considered doing away with any of the the Buffalo, Niagara, or Canisius games to get some better home/home games? No. We think it’s important to play those rivals every single year. We want to keep those going and we will play them every year as long as coach Schmidt is here. It’s great for Western NY and us, so no we won’t be moving away from those games.
How many games (%) are scheduled due to the Bonnies initiating a game vs an opponent initiating a game? I would guess it’s about, and this is a guess, 60% to 70% would have come from our end.
How many programs do you have to talk to on average to schedule the five or so games on the schedule each year (note: not including the Big Four and Franciscan Cup which are presumably understood to be played every year). Probably over 300 schools. We literally talk to almost every single school in the country during the season to make it happen.Between message boards, websites, emails and working the phones you interact with almost everyone on scheduling.
Which conferences do not return your phone calls when you’re trying to schedule a game? Plenty of teams, but not conferences really.
How many invitations do the Bonnies get to play in exempt events that feature top teams? We do get a good number of invitations, esp. since we’ve gotten better the last few seasons, we’ve gotten more recognition and attention from those groups. So we’re on their radar more now than in the past. We do have trouble getting into those tournaments you see on TV though, but we’re optimistic about the future.
Has there been any consideration to expanding the Rochester games to include one or two more games a year (when students are on break)? No, we’ve done the one the last few years but there’s never been talk of doing more than one a season. Giving away another home game would be tough to do on a number of fronts. We love having the one game a season in Rochester and have had a great response to that but we are going to keep it at one game.
When can we see the new uniforms? We just got them in today actually, going to go through them tomorrow to ensure everything looks good. They will be out soon on Twitter I’m sure. They look sharp, we will have players’ names on the back this year which is a new wrinkle.
Will we have a throw back aside from the game in Buffalo? I do not think that will happen this year but we are planning to get a third jersey for next season. As we transition into Adidas that will become easier to do.
How much of scheduling is on you to scout the future of other teams? That’s a huge part of it really. I’ll do all the research in terms of the personnel, etc. I’ll give coach their stat sheet of whose coming in, going out, impact transfers, etc. Before we make any final scheduling decision we evaluate the program from top to bottom. We will look at their 5 year RPI, SOS, and all of that, so we do our homework on all the teams we play so we know what to expect from them in the future; whether it’s a year or two away. We need to paint the clearest picture we can to coach to make the final decision with Tim.