Conference USA tournaments will look different next season.
In an effort to reduce future expenses in response to financial burdens from the coronavirus pandemic, the Daily News has learned through a league source that presidents of C-USA member schools have passed a plan to reduce travel and team participation in postseason tournaments at least for the 2020-21 season.
To cut costs, C-USA will reduce its men’s and women’s basketball tournament from 12 teams to eight. In addition to the change of basketball seeding, the bonus play format will not be used moving forward.
Among the other changes, the C-USA volleyball tournament will be reduced from eight teams to four with the No. 1 seed hosting. Soccer, softball and baseball tournaments will remain at eight teams, but the number of their conference regular-season games will be reduced.
Stadium’s Brett McMurphy first reported Monday that fewer teams would enter the basketball tournaments and C-USA Olympic sports would play fewer regular-season games.
Western Kentucky athletics director Todd Stewart, who sits on the C-USA competition committee, declined to comment because the league office has not yet officially released the plan.
The C-USA Tournament in Frisco, Texas, was canceled abruptly as the quarterfinals were starting March 12. The cancellation of the NCAA Tournament soon followed, as well as the remaining schedule of all NCAA spring sports.
Due to the NCAA Tournament not being played, college sports’ governing body will distribute just $225 million to Division-I schools, a figure that was supposed to be $600 million. The trickle down from Power Five to Group of Five means a significant financial loss that forces leagues like C-USA to make competition decisions in its best financial interest.
The conference that stretches 2,000 miles from El Paso, Texas to Norfolk, Va., is now changing its postseason format to cut back on travel costs by member schools.
By reducing the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments from 12 teams to eight, the tournament would start without its traditional first-round games on Wednesday and now begin with quarterfinals on Thursday. C-USA’s contract with The Ford Center at The Star, headquarters for the Dallas Cowboys, runs through next season. The league has hosted the last three basketball tournaments at the north Dallas location.
The two-year experiment with Bonus Play, although well-intentioned, did not measure up to its original purpose of strengthening teams’ credentials for the NCAA Tournament. Moving forward, the competition committee has presented a change in future scheduling that would require teams to add more Division-I opponents outside of Quadrant 4, where the worst teams rank in the NCAA’s section criteria for the tournament when examining the NET rankings.
That proposal is still on the table with league officials.
Among the significant changes to come is a four-team tournament in volleyball to be hosted by the league’s No. 1 team. That would cut the traditional volleyball format in half and present only a semifinal, likely two-day event for the volleyball championship.
WKU was the No. 1 seed in the 2019 tournament.
Soccer, softball and baseball postseasons will only see a reduction of conference games played in the regular season. Soccer has traditionally played 10 regular season conference games, softball has played 24 and baseball 30.
In a recent interview with the Daily News, Stewart said the future scheduling adjustments could keep teams playing within their conference divisions until the championship. C-USA East Division teams wouldn’t play a team in the West Division until the tournament. In that same interview, the AD said the league is looking at scheduling agreements with other Group of Five conferences that make the most sense geographically.
“I think there’s a really good chance we’ll be able to come up with scheduling alliances in all the sports with exceptions of football and basketball,” Stewart said. “I hope we can because it makes a lot of sense, but I feel like we definitely will in other sports. After 2020-21, how can we play more regional games and fly around the country less for all sports?
“We’re so diverse and spread out that what we need to look at is a different type of scheduling in the conference, not changing conference membership, but how we schedule within that membership.”