I received an interesting email yesterday that was a rebuttal to my Big Ten Baseball: Scheduling Must Improve Before Conference Can Be Taken Seriously article. The rebuttal pointed out that the Big Ten's non-conference schedule is actually more difficult than the Big 12's non-conference schedule. It went on to make an excellent point in the difficulty in scheduling tough mid-week games and that it will be extremely difficult for the Big Ten to improve their RPI when most of their non-conference schedule (95%) will be played on the road.
Turns out it was from Purdue head baseball coach Doug Schreiber.
I have included the email in its entirety with permission from Schreiber:
I would like to make a few comments in reference to your article that Big Ten baseball programs need to schedule better if they want to be taken seriously. I do agree that all Big Ten teams should play a challenging non-conference schedule.
However, there are a few points that I would like to make you aware of. You reference Boyd's World ISR ratings. According to this website, the top nine Big Ten teams actually put together tougher non-conference schedules than the nine Big Twelve teams. Additionally, most of these games are on the road for Big Ten teams compared to Big Twelve teams playing more of their non-conference opponents at home.
|Michigan State||122||Texas A&M||106|
|Penn State||140||Oklahoma State||187|
But when Boyd's World comes up with the overall ISR's, this is what is calculated:
|Michigan State||138||Texas A&M||59|
|Penn State||144||Oklahoma State||78|
I understand that the IRS's are based off of previous year RPI's. And, Big Twelve teams have higher RPI's due to having higher winning percentages, etc. But this is a huge swing in favor of Big Twelve teams. Again, I think you gloss over the fact that most Big Ten teams are on the road for their first 18-20 games. I think the winning percentages of the Big Twelve teams would be affected somewhat if they had to play their first 18-20 games on the road.
You also need to factor in that once conference play starts, Big Ten teams, like most other conferences, have to play teams that are within 3 hour drives for their midweek games. Big Ten teams have had to miss quite a bit of class prior to conference play starting and really can't afford to go out on the road midweek for several days at a time. There are not a lot of great RPI non-conference opponents or conferences in the Midwest for Big Ten teams to play on a regular basis or that will play Big Ten teams more than a couple times a season. Some will only agree to play once. This makes it hard to improve your RPI once conference play starts.
So, according to your rationale, Big Ten teams need to play a murderous, non-conference schedule prior to their conference season when 95% of these games will be on the road. It may help with improving the RPI's a little, but probably not the overall winning percentages, which will cancel out the tough schedules being played.
Again, I agree that all Big Ten teams should play a tough, non-conference schedule. I think that most of the teams are playing quality, non-conference opponents, especially early in the season and compared to the power conferences. However, improving RPI's by improving non-conference opponents (which is the only control teams have when scheduling) is not as easy as you would make it seem to be.
Here at Purdue, we have played Connecticut (2011 super regional team), at East Carolina, and Maryland early, all quality opponents. We will be playing at Auburn, Southern Miss, at Missouri State, at Wichita State (4 games), and Louisville before our season starts. And, since the Big Ten now has a bye weekend since adding Nebraska, we will be playing at UCLA (3 games) during our bye weekend. I think this is a quality non-conference schedule and is reflective of what Big Ten teams are trying to do. Not too many people would question the validity of this schedule.
I appreciate your interest in college baseball and coverage of Nebraska and Big Ten baseball. We are all trying to improve the conference.
The typical attitude (including mine previous to Schreiber's email) towards Big Ten baseball is that the conference isn't strong in the sport because of weak scheduling and that the conference hasn't invested enough in the sport to make it better.
Schreiber's email leaves little doubt that the conference is trying to improve scheduling.
As far as investment goes, most would say that Big Ten facilities are far behind those of their warm-weather counterparts. What aren't aware of is that Big Ten schools have been or are in process of improving their facilities.
Purdue will be playing at Lambert Field this spring, but is in process of building a new $10.3M facility, Alexander Field. Minnesota is planning on spending $15M on new facilities to replace aging Siebert Field. Michigan State opened McLane Stadium in 2009, while Penn State's Medlar Field is one of the finer new college baseball stadiums in the country. Michigan renovated Ray Fisher Stadium in 2008.
I'd say those represent a significant investment by Big Ten Schools.
Last, the attitude is that the Big Ten has been using weather as excuse. To that I would ask - is there any other sport that requires a region play its first 18-20 games on the road? If this were any other sport, say, college basketball, would you call that equitable?
I appreciate that Schreiber took the time to respond to my article. Such a thing would have never happened in the Big 12. Perhaps that's significant proof enough that there is an awareness that things need to change and that changes are being made. Most significantly it shows that there are coaches like Schreiber who are passionate enough about their sport and that we should be aware of it.