WA: Generally fans think you just call up a team and it gets done rather quickly, can you give insight on how the process works?
Reynolds: The first misconception is that it is not like football. Football is years and years and years in advance and they only have to schedule three games.
In basketball, for us, we are scheduling either 12 or 13 games depending on the exempt event and if there are three or four games in that event.
With guarantee games, and they are called that because the team gets a guaranteed amount, we don’t really work on those until a year out because it is hard to forecast how their RPI is going to be. Typically with those type of games I reach out to them to see if they are interested and I look at where I think their RPI is going to be.
WA: How long does that process take?
Reynolds: That typically works out where as our season is going along from Christmas time to around April is when we try to get all of those done for the next actual season.
To put it in perspective, there are still a lot of teams right now that are still trying to finish their schedule for the actual 14-15 season.
With the home and homes, they are in advance, not as far as football is, but as we just scheduled the UCONN series, that is still four full seasons from happening. When we scheduled Florida and we scheduled Missouri and Gonzaga and UNLV, all of those were scheduled more than a year in advance.
It’s not as easy as everyone thinks. Year to year I work directly with Sean on who he wants to schedule and how he wants our schedule to work and we try to work a year or two in advance to kind of have it where our schedule is balanced as far as road and home games and how far we have to travel. It’s not as simple as me calling a school and saying let’s play next year.
WA: Then you have to worry about events that our already scheduled, right?
Reynolds: You have to figure out the dates, and if there is something like the ACC/Big 10 challenge that cuts a whole half week of the season to play a home and home with them because they are playing those games.
Another thing that comes into play is that there are a lot of teams that don’t play home and homes any more because they don’t have to because they just do a neutral event.
I wouldn’t say we are totally against those, but I think for who we are and how great it is to play in McKale, what we would rather do is play true home and homes and get other teams like us to come into McKale and play in front of our fans in the season ticket package as opposed to us playing in like Chicago and our fans not being able to go because they are in Tucson.
WA: Is there a general framework you have when scheduling?
Reynolds: We try to have a plan that we had at Xavier, which kind of translates to Arizona. It has changed a little bit as time has gone on, but we try to play four essentially home and home series where it is going to be two at home and two on the road.
We usually try to play five guarantee games and, compared to other Power 5 schools, that is probably the middle range. Some schools play upwards of about eight of those and more play less than five or four. I think we are kind of right at the place where it is a mix of higher level games and guarantee games.
WA: RPI plays a big role, right?
Reynolds: With the guarantee games we try to play teams that will have a RPI that we think will be higher than 200. It is hard to predict that in all cases, but inside of the five games we are trying to play a couple teams we think will be in the top 100.
If you look at our schedule this season, UC Irvine on paper is a team that should be in the top 100, which was done on purpose.
WA: Can you discuss those exempt events a bit more?
Reynolds: We always try to play in one exempt event. We like to play in exempt events where it is going to be high profile, we are going to be on TV, and at the same time we want the travel to make sense for us.
What people don’t realize on these exempt events is that we scheduled the 2014 Maui Invitational in 2009 and we were one of the first teams to get into it. At the time when we scheduled to go to Maui, we had no idea who was going to be in the field.
It is up to Maui to pick those teams, but there is only one team in your conference that can play in it. With 12 teams in our conference, everyone is battling to get into the same events, so you have to work pretty far ahead to get those booked.
I know where we are going for the next five seasons in exempt events because if you don’t work ahead, you can’t control it.
WA: With those exempt events, how much does location play a factor now?
Reynolds: The first exempt event we actually scheduled, our staff, was the Diamondhead. The first time we went to Maui, the Las Vegas Invitational when we went to the Elite Eight with Derrick Williams, Coaches vs. Cancer, all of those contracts were already done prior to us being here.
We added the Diamondhead, Preseason NIT, and Maui for this year. The one thing we like about the Diamondhead is that on Christmas Day there are only four college basketball games, so if you are in the Diamondhead when everybody else is home, there is nothing else going on, no real college football football games, everybody is going to watch your game.
Are we going to get any home games out of it is another thing we look at and a lot of events have added a fourth game at home or you play two games at home and at the site. The benefit of that for Arizona is a couple of home games that aren’t coming out of our guarantee games and that helps us get revenue and play at home.
WA: Ideally, how many home games are you looking at?
Reynolds: If you look at a lot of the major teams in college basketball, they are playing a lot of games at home. In our conference we play nine home games and we are always trying to play eight or nine regular season games at home and that is our plan, to play 17 or 18 total home games in the regular season, because if you play at home, it’s a lot easier on your players as far as their academics.
Travel in the Pac-12 is brutal as far as it is really long trips and hard to get to Tucson. We really only try to have two road trips in the non conference and it could be one is a little further than the other, but they both have to make sense for us. It’s not like we aren’t ever going to go to a place like New York or the east, but the travel and wear and tear is something we look at.
WA: Do you have any say at all with Pac-12 scheduling?
Reynolds: It’s really all the Pac-12, which with the television deal, the conference has the ultimate say on all of our game times, including the non-conference. They work with our TV partners, but it is all them and we have to work with how it all gets laid out.
WA: People mention playing schools like UNC, Kansas, etc, but how many of these major schools do you talk to that just straight up say no?
Reynolds: A lot of them, especially the ones on the east coast, probably don’t want to travel this far because they don’t have to. Some of those schools also have natural home and home rivalries that they pretty much always have set up.
All 52 weeks of the year we’re synching up scheduling and having informal phone conversations or emailing going back and forth about scheduling.
A lot of people like to talk, but when it gets to time to actually sign the contract, it’s not as easy as it was when you were first talking. A lot of it comes down to exempt events happening at a certain time or they are playing in other events they have to play in that takes away dates.
Most of the time, even if a team is serious, it is a 50/50 toss up as to whether our dates match their dates and it makes sense for both of us. There are a lot of other factors that go into it and a lot of schools are willing to listen, but are they willing to pull the trigger?
If you look at a lot of the other high majors, they play really good games and good schedules, it just has to work for both of us.