Why Are We Playing This Team?

One of the key features of the successful 2007/08 campaign was the challenging schedule. The 2008/09 season continues that tough scheduling trend. Was the difficult schedule planned? What are the challenges in putting a schedule together? The Bootleg posed a few scheduling questions to Director of Operations, Eileen Roche.

Eileen Roche is entering her fourth season as Director of Operations for Tara VanDerveer's program. Having been both an event coordinator/director and a coach, Roche was well prepared to be the keeper of the schedule.

What timing is involved in creating a schedule? How far in advance must you plan?

"I'm working on scheduling now. Right now I have my book until 2010-11. I'm thinking of starting books for 2011-12 and 2012-13. You have eighteen Pac-10 games and you have twenty-nine games allowable, not counting post-season, if you are not in a multi-team tournament (such as the Paradise Jam last season or the Hawaii tournament this Thanksgiving). And if you are in a multi-team tournament, you get nine games to schedule. You try to even things out with equal numbers home and away. (Not all teams go for equality in that area.) When you set series with people, you try to do them home and home. We have an every-year commitment with Tennessee, which is wonderful. So every other year we want to make an East Coast trip. This year we were going to go to Northwestern, South Carolina, which was deferred a year after they came here, and then Tennessee. Then Northwestern had a coaching change so even though you set a schedule, if the staff leaves it doesn't have to be honored necessarily and we understand that. So then we were contacted by Duke and we decided to make that work. That is why there are three (road games) in a row. Three is a lot."

What are the logistics involved in getting dates at Maples Pavilion?

"We have to work with men's basketball and women's volleyball, who are at the tail end of their season and pre-tournament time. Of course if volleyball is hosting an event than you can't have home games. I try to get all that and the football schedule ahead of time as much as I can. And then you want to keep your local games because it's good for everybody. We love to play Santa Clara and USF for example. That helps them out. It's close. Our fans will go so we'll bring fans and help them out as well as being able to stay near home and not have to travel."

Who gets preference if multiple teams are interested in a game with Stanford?

"It's all up to Coach VanDerveer. Everything I do I run by Tara. It just really has to fit. It's a lot of juggling. I just e-mailed two schools just to check on potential dates for 2009-10. Because we're on quarters not semesters and we can't play during dead week or exam week - that's all pre-season and that's prime time (to get good non-conference games) – we try to do a game right after exams and right before dead week, perhaps not a terribly difficult game starting back up after exams."

The schedules for 2007-08 and for this season are noteworthy for their difficulty. Was this intentional?

"We actively try. Tara told me when I picked this up in 2005 that last year she wanted a very competitive schedule so I found that Paradise Jam and you find the places you can go and be competitive. It depends on who is available. It's a lot of e-mails and phone calls. I just contacted a school that owes us a game next year and we've been playing phone tag for weeks. It's just a big, big puzzle that you have to constantly be on.

And another thing in there is we tell these kids when we recruit them that we will play near their hometown in their four years. But I tell you when we tried to go east last year I was flat out told no by several New York City teams. So we got close. We got to Yale and to Rutgers. But there are some schools that will flat out not play us."

The swine! On the other hand are there schools that you really want to play and they you but logistically you can't make it work?

"Yes that happens in some instances, particularly once your Pac-10 season comes and you're playing your two games a week, the kids are in school, you can't be on the road that long. Last year at Rutgers was an exception for us because we went back east to the Paradise Jam (Virgins Islands) but because Rutgers called and said we could get this ESPN game we took two eastern trips. That was tough on the kids, on the team, but they did well. But that is not an ideal situation to go east, come back here, and then go again in a week and a half."

Has experience helped make the process easier to handle?

"Now that I've had a couple of years under my belt I know to lock things up when I can, like with Rutgers. Right away when we committed to them I put them in for the next year. And when we establish these relationships, and that comes with experience too, you know you're ok. And then we get those contracts out. We knew Rutgers was going to come back on that date. We knew Baylor. So we kept a window open. Minnesota owed us. (Stanford traveled to Minnesota in November 2005.) It was a push to say this is it – you're going to come and that's it! And they did once they realized that it was time, it was beyond time. We were glad to get Duke in there this year."

Roche checked her magic scheduling books and found that the Duke series is a home and home. Duke will be coming to Maples Pavilion next December about the time Tennessee makes their biennial visit. That should be one great week! Can Roche give us any other sneak peeks for next season?

"Next year we're going to start our Connecticut home and home. We'll go there first. That date is one of the ones it will be interesting to see how it ends up. They wanted it in January or February for ESPN but the Pac-10 starts January too. We would really like to go during the Cal week, which would give us just those two games that week, not three. But you also don't want to be traveling. Cal is a very important game. We'll have to find out what ESPN has and get on the UConn books now. That might be one of those situations where we throw our hands up and just make do."

Do teams ever have odd demands or requirements when they travel to Stanford?

"Everyone is different. You give your basic comp tickets. Some people want certain food. That's more in the post-season, the NCAAs. During the season these teams travel so well. We're all pretty self-contained. Some teams have been coming here for years and know where they want to eat and all. We've had teams order their own food to come in the locker room after a game. We don't arrange meals for anyone. Certainly when we contact them we give them lists of local places. Some schools that come in want to go to [San Francisco] so we help direct them to where they might want to go. But nothing odd. They have their people to do the job as do we."

Do people ever cancel games? Do you ever have to suddenly move games?

"Oh yeah, that's a bone of contention with me. Typically what will happen is during the spring, because you pencil everything in and then you have to see if things change, especially with our men's basketball and women's volleyball teams, like maybe women's volleyball wins a home post-season bid, sometimes things get canceled or switched around. And then sometimes you think you have all the e-mails back and forth and we're committed and then something maybe better comes along. I think that is a problem. You have to be as good as your word. Now I get contracts done right away. I don't wait until spring to send them all out."

What better could come along to replace Stanford on a schedule? The Bootleg cannot fathom. Are there any other ways to scrounge up games?

"There are websites available for us that we can go on and if there are bulletin boards for lets say women's sports, you punch in the year and the sport and it will come up with people who will post looking for games. There are also people like Basketball Travelers that put on tournaments. They list their things all the time. Do you want to do a foreign tour? They set that up. Do you want to do a multi-team tournament? That's how I got the Paradise Jam, went through Basketball Travelers. The WBCA (Women's Basketball Coaches Association) does a Tip Off Classic. We've offered for us to host it. Haven't yet got a positive on that one."

And so Roche works the phones and waits for the good word from the WBCA, among others. Or looks through those want ads for games. Hot-shooting, attractive match-up seeks same. You be able to travel and available for one weekend a year. Likes: strong defense and smooth entry passes. Dislikes: turnovers and forced shots. My place then yours. Game tape gets same. For a good game call!

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