Basketball bracket time changes favor financial support

The official and final NJCAA Region VI basketball tournament brackets were released last week for the women’s and men’s teams. According to Seward Sports Information Director Roy Allen the tournament brackets, however, were unexpectedly changed over the weekend without any kind of forewarning.

An email sent out to athletic administrators confirmed that the reasoning behind the time changes was based on what team could bring in more revenue at the 7 p.m. games for both men’s and women’s teams. In this case, Hutchinson received play time at both 7 p.m. games.

Allen shared that this is “not fair and equitable,” because once a bracket has been made and published, and then changed for the benefit of a couple of schools in the area of Wichita, it stops being about the players.

“To me, our goal is to give these kids an equal opportunity to experience a tournament like this, and if Hutch gets the prime time both nights, you take the experience away from the other teams,” Allen said.

Also, according to Seward Athletic Director Galen McSpadden in the past, Region VI Tournament time slots for games were published as TBA following the end of regularly scheduled conference games, and after the first round games, the rest were given their times based on the “Region VI director’s determination of potential fan based gate receipts in an effort to offset costs of the tournament.” However, the women’s bracket times were not published as TBA this time, but were assigned times immediately and the bracket was sent out following the regularly scheduled conference games. The time changes then raised a red flag because once a bracket has been published, changes are less likely to be made.

McSpadden explained that the reason given for these changes was ultimately based on which teams could bring in the “largest financial fan support at the gate and that this is what was best for the Region VI Tournament.” The time change for Seward from 5 p.m. to 3 suggested that Seward, along with Cowley, would not be able to bring in as much attendance to their game as Butler County and Independence would. McSpadden specified that he has not seen any financial history that would verify this financial reasoning, but he believes that Cowley’s women’s basketball program, as well as Seward’s, “has had a significant fan base and attendance when playing in Wichita.”

McSpadden also stated that he does not agree that the financial based decision is not what is “best” for the region. If this continues to be the case for Region VI tournaments, than that means that there are colleges that will never get the chance to play during the “prime time” slots at 5 and 7 in the afternoon. The system in place right now favors some schools and is disfavoring others.

“I believe that what is best for the region is to provide a tournament format that pre-determines who is playing who and at what times based on the performances on the court or field during the season, along with the results of the first rounds of the Region VI post season play,” McSpadden said. If this was put into play, each team within Region VI would have the opportunity to play at the prime times based on competition not a “financial fan base.”

McSpadden further explained that this is what he thinks would be best and most fair for the region. He proposed two possible solutions if a location to play a Region VI Tournament can only be guaranteed based on fan based ticket sales. The first solution would be to “secure funds that will help offset the expenses of the tournament,” for example, corporate sponsorships, and second, find a more affordable venue that “will not determine time slots based on fan based gate receipts.”

Although, according to Allen, the region does not seem to be in need of any financial assistance or need, which only invalidates the reasoning behind the time changes that occurred.

“Hopefully this situation will bring attention to future decisions and possible reconsideration as to the format, times and location of the Region VI Tournament that will be best for all of Region VI,” McSpadden said.

Although time changes are not the most important part of the tournament, coaches and fans are still disappointed about the decision. Seward County’s women’s basketball coach, Toby Wynn, shared, “In regards to the time changes, the only disappointing aspect is the fact that some of our fans will now be unable to attend the game on Wednesday. The excitement of being in the tournament is something that doesn’t change no matter what time you play, but I just feel bad for our fans who will be unable to attend.”

The Lady Saints were first scheduled to play the 5 p.m. game on Wednesday and then were re-scheduled for the 3 p.m. slot instead. The 5 p.m. game allowed fans and supporters the chance to make it to the game in time and still work half a day, but moving the game up took away this opportunity for those who had already planned on attending the game in Wichita.

The time that a team plays should not affect the way that a team performs, but there is a big difference in atmosphere between an early afternoon game and an evening game. Allen shared that teams scheduled to play earlier in the afternoon don’t have enough of an audience to give them the atmosphere of a later scheduled game. On the contrary, according to NJCAA records, Seward has had one of the higher leading fan bases in the last two years, and playing the afternoon slot did not deter the Lady Saints from beating Cowley 72-59.

They now advance to another early afternoon game, at 1 p.m. against Coffeyville.