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January 20, 1994|SCOTT MILLER

If you are Nevada Las Vegas, you can telephone any basketball program in the nation to talk scheduling and your call will sail through the switchboard as if the White House were on the line.

If you are Cal State Fullerton, sometimes days pass before your messages are returned.

Which is why the Big West Conference's new scheduling policy will hit lower-tier schools, such as Fullerton, harder next season, and it is why the Titans already have much of their nonconference schedule finished for next season even though they still have two months to play this season.

The Big West has closely watched the ascent of the Atlantic 10 Conference and, when four Atlantic 10 teams played in the NCAA tournament last year, Big West officials decided to follow that conference's blueprint for success.

So beginning next year:

--No Big West team can schedule a non-Division I opponent.

--All Big West teams are required to schedule eight nonconference games against a minimum of four opponents ranked in the NCAA's Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) top 100 and no more than two opponents ranked No. 201 or below.

The conference is using last season's RPI index because teams need to work on next year's schedule now and, given the time constraints, they cannot wait to see the RPI index at the end of this season.

There are two factors figured into the above two rules:

--A team from one of the top eight ranked conferences can be considered a top 100 team.

--Even if the Western Athletic Conference and Pac-10 are not among the top eight conferences, teams from those two groups can be considered as a top 100 team.

"What our teams did was look at the Atlantic 10 Conference," said Jody McRoberts, Big West assistant commissioner. "Our teams used to feel equivalent to the Atlantic 10 and, suddenly last year, the Atlantic 10 got four teams in.

"Those are the things the Atlantic 10 did."

Temple, George Washington, Massachusetts and Rhode Island from the Atlantic 10 played in last year's NCAA tournament. In the Big West, only New Mexico State and Long Beach State got in.

"Our teams have played 14 games against non-Division I programs this year," McRoberts said. "We looked at the other conferences so far, and (the 14 games) are high for a top conference. You look at the Atlantic 10 and there's none."

As for Fullerton, the Titans are already covered under next year's guidelines. They already have scheduled games at UCLA, at Utah and at the Fresno State tournament with Texas Arlington and a fourth team to be named; and at home against San Diego State. The Titans are also at Loyola Marymount and still looking for two home games.

"I think (the new guidelines) make it tougher on a school like Fullerton who don't have the guaranteed money we can offer people to come in and play us," Coach Brad Holland said. "But since they're allowing WAC and Pac-10 schools, that gives us more of a chance.

"My personal feeling is that if it's hurting anyone, it's hurting a school like ours. It doesn't affect UNLV or New Mexico State."


Add scheduling: The top eight conferences in the country last year, according the NCAA RPI: Atlantic Coast Conference, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big Eight, Big Ten, Great Midwest, Pac-10 and Southeastern Conference.

The NCAA doesn't make the rankings public but does tell each individual conference where it ranks. The Big West is 12th.


Miracles do happen: Believe it or not, the Titans will play host to their first track and field meets on their newly fixed track this spring. Coach John Elders was given permission last week to order 54 hurdles, four steeplechase barriers and 10 starting blocks. He also was told to get the curbing done on the inside of the track (tracks must have curbs for a meet to be considered official).

He also has ordered miscellaneous items needed to run meets such as flags, measuring tapes and pit rakes.

The schedule calls for Fullerton to play host to a three-way meet against Cal State Northridge and UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 19, another against UCSB and UC Irvine on Feb. 26 and the Titan Invitational on March 12. Elders also is considering adding another invitational on April 29.

Titan Notes

The gymnastics team opens its season Friday with a meet at San Jose State. The Titans then play host to UCLA on Jan. 28. . . . The Titan men's basketball team is home against San Jose State on Thursday and Pacific on Saturday before four consecutive road games at UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State, Pacific and San Jose State. . . . The Titan women's basketball team is at Long Beach State on Thursday and then has a week off before playing host to New Mexico State on Jan. 27.

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