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Jeff Kolpack, Published June 12 2010

Summit League: Conference looking into basketball scheduling

Summit League athletic directors are once again looking into conference basketball scheduling, a response from some women’s teams wanting to get away from Monday games.

Include North Dakota State in that category. It appears the school would prefer discussion on a Thursday doubleheader for men and women and split games on Saturday.

Currently, the men play Thursday-Saturday and the women Saturday-Monday.

NDSU women’s athletic director Lynn Dorn called it a student-athlete welfare issue, saying Monday games are a stress on academics and do not give the players a weekend off.

Sundays, Dorn said, are used for prepping for Monday games. And in the case of NDSU being on the road, the players usually don’t return to Fargo until mid- to late-afternoon.

About the only exception are flights from Kansas City, which can get the players back before noon.

“They almost miss a full day again,” Dorn said.

Mondays also made for a ghost town-like atmosphere at the Bison Sports Arena this year. The Bison women averaged 1,664 fans on Saturdays and 770 on Mondays, although one Saturday game was a doubleheader with the men.

Dorn said there was discussion at the Summit athletic directors meeting this week in Chicago of the men and women rotating the Monday dates every two years.

“That’s not the right solution either,” she said.

Another possibility is mirror scheduling, meaning if the NDSU men played at Oakland and IPFW, the Bison women would host those two schools on the same days.

The most-often used argument against mirror scheduling is it ties up an arena every weekend. As for Monday games, some schools in the past have said they prefer their women’s programs to have their own night.

In order for change to happen, a proposal from league coaches would have to be forwarded to the league’s athletic directors, which in turn would have to send it on to the Summit League Presidents Council.

“I think it’s worth taking a look at it,” said South Dakota State head women’s basketball coach Aaron Johnston.

He agrees with the student-welfare issue saying his team has had two Sundays off from Christmas until the end of the season – and that was only because they played NDSU.

“But the big challenge is you don’t want to solve a women’s basketball issue and create a problem for another sport,” he said, “be it making it difficult for wrestling to schedule or whatever it may be.”

The Summit athletic directors will not meet again until October.

NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor, speaking on WDAY-AM’s SportsTalk on Wednesday, said expansion was not addressed at this week’s meeting. The President’s Council has its summer meeting June 21 in Chicago.

Meanwhile, NDSU won the Summit League’s Dr. Helen Smiley All Sports Award. The Bison won league titles in soccer, volleyball and indoor and outdoor track and field.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546