SEC scheduling ploys in women’s sports go over the top
Thanks to successful football programs and ridiculously large television contracts, the 14 members of the Southeastern Conference reap some significant financial benefits.
But recently, two SEC women’s programs used some of those dollars to pull some interesting maneuvers, all in a quest to become – or remain – eligible for the postseason.
Go back to last week, when the Arkansas women’s tennis team made a run through the SEC women’s tennis tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee, winning three matches before losing to Florida in the semifinals.
That loss left the Razorbacks at 10-16, and with a record under .500, the opportunity for reaching the postseason was seemingly over.
Arkansas stopped on the way home in Nashville and paid Tennessee State University $15,000 to play six – count ’em, six – matches in one day.
The Razorbacks won all six, though the final one was close, and all of a sudden, their record was 16-16.
The NCAA announced their field of 64 on Tuesday, and even though the Hogs had gotten eligible and were ranked No. 29 nationally, presumably, wiser heads prevailed and they were not in the bracket.
The women’s bracket does include a pair of Louisiana schools in LSU, which will meet Tulsa in the opening round in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Southland Conference champ McNeese, which faces No. 6 seed Texas in Austin.
Then there is the case of Missouri’s softball program, traditionally one of the best in the country.
The Tigers are hovering just above .500 and, in the midweek prior to its final series of the regular season, had a doubleheader scheduled at Wichita State Wednesday – a good non-conference test against a team with an RPI of 31.
But rather than play, Missouri paid $5,000 to buy its way out of the games, and instead of not playing on its SEC bye weekend, it added a doubleheader against an Arkansas-Pine Bluff team with a 15-25 overall record.
Now, even if the Tigers are swept at home this weekend by Florida and lose in the first round of the SEC Tournament next week – which, by the way, is in Columbia – Missouri can finish no worse than 28-28.
Coaches should do everything in their power to put their student-athletes in the best position to succeed. But these two instances are clearly over the top.
The Arkansas ploy certainly jeopardized the health and welfare of the players, who not only were being asked to play an unheard of number of matches in one day, but to do so after playing matches each of the previous four days in their conference tournament.
The Missouri ploy just sends a bad message – if our team is in jeopardy of losing, let’s just not play and write a check to the other school.
Maybe that SEC slogan of the last couple of years, “It Just Means More,” needs to add a word at the end – “Money.”
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…