Byrne: Basketball Scheduling

Mississippi State Athletic Director Greg Byrne talks about what was discussed about basketball scheduling during the recently-completed SEC meetings, Midnight Madness and how the contract with Leerfield is working out.

What were some things from the recent SEC meeting that will affect Mississippi State?
"One of the biggest things discussed was about basketball scheduling. We had (NCAA Senior Vice-President) Tom Jernstedt, the number 2 guy at the NCAA, and Greg Shaheen, who works for Tom, and, obviously (SEC) Commissioner Mike Slive, the chair of the basketball committee, come in and talk to the ADs and the coaches about the process of being selected (to the NCAA Tournament). It was obviously a bad year this past year for the league (as far as SEC teams being selected to play in the tournament). LSU was a pretty good ballclub and they probably got a bad seeding because of the perception, right or wrong, of the league.

"The thing they mentioned as important was not playing teams that are ranked above 150 to 200 in the RPI because beating those kind of teams to get to the 20 wins mark is not important. It's who you play, when you play, where you play them and what the results are - those are the four things they emphasized as what counts when you are on the bubble and getting in the tournament.

"Arizona was an example of this. They had either 18 or 19 wins but had a good RPI and they played a good non-conference schedule. You are as well off going to and losing to a top-50 RPI school, non-conference, as you are winning against a team ranked 172nd in the RPI. So, that magical number of 20 wins doesn't carry as much weight according to those experts.

"What the coaches were concerned about, as were the ADs, is will that message be consistent when there is a different chair next year? Will the message be the same? You schedule everybody you can to help with that (criteria), then the rules change. You win 16 or 17 games, then what does that mean? So, as an AD you have to make sure you are willing to support your coaches through a situation like that.

"What we have to do is everything we can to get 5, 6, maybe even some years 7 or 8 teams in the dance. It might be tough to get 8 in but it's not out of the question to get 7 in."

What will Mississippi State do basketball schedule-wise to make sure they meet that criteria?
"(MSU head basketball) Coach (Rick) Stansbury and I will have more discussions about basketball scheduling. And they encouraged the athletic directors to get more involved in the scheduling.

"But here's an issue for us. When I used to work at Kentucky you could get just about anybody to play you. At Mississippi State, if we go to Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA or some of those type schools, we are going to have a harder time getting them to come back here (to Starkville). And we are very rarely willing to do a non-conference game at a home site if they won't return a game here. That would have to be a very special set of circumstances such as a special recruit or some other special circumstance. We would probably do a neutral site game with a team like that, though."

This is really not related to scheduling, but I noticed there is a new rule that no longer allows workouts between 12 am and 5 am. Does that mean there will no longer be a Midnight Madness?
"You can have an exception to that rule, so you can have a Midnight Madness if you want to. But a lot of schools have gotten away from doing a Midnight Madness."

Leerfield won the MSU media rights contract about a year ago. How has it worked out with them so far?
"It's going great. They have been doing an outstanding job. They are very aggressive throughout the market place - all over Mississippi, up in the Memphis area, over into Birmingham, getting into Atlanta a little bit - selling Mississippi State, working on corporate sponsorship. You will probably see some more signage, see some more announcements. That's the reality of the world we are in and we have to embrace that."

How much more signage do you expect to see?
"We historically haven't had a lot of signs in our venues. We are not going to double them or anything like that but you will see an occasional corporate sign in the Hump, in Dudy Noble or somewhere else like that."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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