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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cal Says Holy Cross Not to Play Tigers

Holy Cross drops off U of M schedule

By Dan Wolken
May 16, 2007

DESTIN, Fla. -- John Calipari said Tuesday that Holy Cross dropped out of its commitment to play the University of Memphis next season, leaving the Tigers with an opening on their non-conference schedule.

Memphis had agreed to pay Holy Cross $70,000 to play at FedExForum, a relatively high figure for a "buy" game. Holy Cross was considered a good non-conference opponent for Memphis because it will enter next season as the favorite to win the Patriot League.

Calipari said Memphis will likely look for another "buy" foe to replace Holy Cross. Even with the opening, Memphis' schedule is further along than usual for this time of year.

No decision

Though it was discussed Tuesday morning in a meeting between Conference USA's basketball coaches and athletic directors, no decision will be made this week about where to hold the 2009 men's basketball tournament. Memphis will host the 2008 tournament, but the league is not in a hurry to name a site for future years. The majority of coaches would like to try another site, but at this point it would be a huge financial risk to move it. There is a chance that Tulsa -- which is opening a new downtown arena -- could get in the mix for 2009.

"We're not going to make any decision on '09 down here," Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson said. "But the question was raised, here we are, the kingpin of the league and we're hosting the conference tournament. Is that really right? From a financial standpoint and a fan standpoint, it's the only way to go. But if you're an AD or coach at one of these other schools, at some point you're going to say, 'How many times do we have to go to Memphis?'"

Schedule news

Coaches spent part of their meeting Tuesday with Greg Shaheen, the NCAA's vice president for basketball and business strategies. Shaheen explained some of the discussion that took place during last year's NCAA Tournament selection process and talked about issues like scheduling and the RPI.

Scheduling has been a big topic of discussion this week, with teams like UAB and Southern Miss having difficulty getting the kind of non-conference games that could help them get NCAA bids.

Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy, whose team will be one of the favorites next year, has booked games at Alabama and against Ole Miss at the DeSoto Civic Center. Other than that, "we have a tough time scheduling," Eustachy said. "Arkansas won't play us at Arkansas. UNLV won't play us at UNLV.

"I can't get Mississippi State to play us. We'll even play there twice, but they won't do it. But you've got a guy like Andy Kennedy who is terrific and is trying to give something back to basketball because that's what the state of Mississippi wants to see. I always did that at Iowa State; we played everybody. So we'll play (Ole Miss) there, play in Jackson, then play on the coast, kind of a three-year deal."

Houston coach Tom Penders has Arizona and Kentucky coming to Hofheinz Pavilion. But unlike previous years, Penders isn't taking his team on the road to play high-level competition because he doesn't believe teams are getting rewarded for doing that in the current RPI structure.

"Now you can go and get more points for playing Prairie View on the road and winning than you do for beating Arizona at home. It's nuts," Penders said. "So we've watered down our schedule significantly from last year. ... We're going to play like 19 home games. We're going to do what everybody else is doing. We won't play as bad a schedule as some of those who never leave home, but we're going to try to play all our non-league at home except for (the San Juan Shootout). ... You've got to figure out ways to make the tournament."

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