By an overwhelming margin, the men's and women's basketball coaches of the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. favor a return to a Thursday-Saturday basketball schedule next season, a Times poll shows.
The conference, which includes Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson, played Friday-Saturday contests this season, except for women's games played on Thursdays at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The change had been spurred by a vote of the conference's college presidents, who expressed concern that basketball players were missing too many classes on travel days. Previously, most contests in the eight-school league were held on Thursdays and Saturdays.
Ten coaches from the 13 men's and women's teams returning to the CCAA next season said that students did not suffer severe loss of class time with a Thursday-Saturday schedule because most road trips did not involve overnight stays. Several also charged that administrators at Cal State Bakersfield and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo had duped the presidents into voting for a travel schedule that served to enhance the home court advantage of the CCAA's two northernmost schools.
Those in favor of Thursday-Saturday contests said the presidents were not aware of all the facts when they voted last spring. They cited the hazards of a lack of preparation time for Saturday opponents and the increased risk of injuries inherent in back-to-back games. The coaches also noted a drop in the quality of performances in Saturday games because athletes do not have a day off to recover, and they complained of the emotional strain on young players and an unfair advantage to home teams because they do not travel.
Friday games also present increased competition for space in the local newspapers and media outlets. Friday night is traditionally prep night, when local high school games are the primary focus of coverage by local media. In addition, Saturday editions are traditionally some of the smallest sections of the week, which leaves little space for college games in some towns.
Both Chapman College in Orange and Cal State Dominguez Hills experienced more than a 50% drop in media coverage this year as a result of playing Friday games. UC Riverside officials said they also noticed a drop in coverage.
The Division II CCAA consists of Dominguez Hills, San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly Pomona, Chapman, Riverside, Cal State Los Angeles, Bakersfield and Cal State Northridge, which will leave the conference this fall to move to Division I. Bakersfield does not have a women's basketball team.
Conference coaches and some athletic administrators have charged that San Luis Obispo President Warren J. Baker used an emotional plea of lost class time to unfairly influence the other conference presidents. Coaches also complained that the sport of basketball is being unfairly singled out, saying athletes in sports such as baseball and track miss much more class time.
(The Times survey indicates that officials at only San Luis Obispo unanimously favor Friday-Saturday games. Coach Pat Douglass of CCAA champion Cal State Bakersfield said he would support Thursday-Saturday games next year, although he felt back-to-back weekend contests spur more fan interest.)
Baker reportedly used a fax machine to lobby fellow presidents. Ironically, San Luis Obispo's basketball teams made just three CCAA overnight road trips this year.
Both Baker and Mustang Athletic Director Ken Walker were out of town and unavailable for comment, but Associate Athletic Director Marilyn McNeil confirmed that the college has long been "against having to play Thursday-Saturday games."
In the Times survey, the 13 returning coaches were asked: "Given a choice for the 1990-91 (season), on which days would you prefer to play your games?" Only men's Coach Steve Beeson and women's Coach Jill Orrock of San Luis Obispo wanted to play Friday-Saturday games, citing missed class time.
Said Beeson: "For us, every trip is an overnight trip; it takes away from classes."
Women's programs at other conference members have their own travel problems, however. Because San Luis Obispo played all of its women's home games on Thursdays and Saturdays this fall, the other six women's teams in the conference had to drive an average of 3 1/2 hours from the Los Angeles area on the afternoon of a night game, or leave a day early, thereby causing players to miss classes.
Most vehemently opposed to the Friday-Saturday setup was UC Riverside Coach John Masi, who called the presidents' decision "bogus." He said the presidents were not made aware of all the ramifications of their vote.
"There is no way you can ask these players to play on back-to-back nights and have them be successful," said Masi, the most victorious coach in CCAA history. "Friday should be a rest day. Just about every conference in the country does it."