College Basketball

In a Scheduling First, Pac-12 and SWAC Plan Home-and-Home Basketball Games

Pac-12 leaders similarly welcomed the home-and-home agreement, which Bernard Muir, Stanford’s athletic director, predicted would “open our eyes and our fan bases to an opportunity that we don’t traditionally get.”

“Certainly, there’s games that occur between Power 5s and H.B.C.U.s, but to do this across the board in both conferences, I think it’s really unique,” he said.

Dana Altman, Oregon’s coach since 2010, said he expected the trips to become important learning experiences for players in the two leagues. In an interview, he recalled a 1999 trip to Mississippi Valley State, in Itta Bena, Miss., with one of his Creighton teams as revelatory.

“It was good at the time, just that our guys went to a small campus in a very small town,” said Altman, who once had Florida A&M’s coach, Robert McCullum, on his staff at Oregon. “I think this trip will be good for our players, especially when they learn about the school and get some of the history of the school.”

Some SWAC schools, officials said, are considering playing their home games under the arrangement at bigger, off-campus arenas in their areas.

Although the SWAC commands large home crowds for football games — the most of any conference outside the Power 5 or Group of 5 leagues that dominate Division I football — it has struggled to draw audiences for men’s basketball. For the 2019-20 season, the league ranked 29th of the 32 Division I conferences in home basketball attendance, and its schools averaged fewer than 1,600 people per home game.

The Pac-12’s schools, by contrast, typically drew more than 7,000 fans per game.

Jason Cable, the athletic director at Alabama State, said U.S.C.’s appearance there in 2023 would be the university’s most significant nonconference game at home in memory. He said that the exposure and opportunity would be valuable to a university like Alabama State, the lone Division I school in Montgomery, and he predicted that those benefits would outweigh the value of a check that would be earned through another road trip.

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