Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Different Schools of Thought in Scheduling; UNF Is Opting for More Higher-Profile Opponents Than Rival JU

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Different Schools of Thought in Scheduling; UNF Is Opting for More Higher-Profile Opponents Than Rival JU

Article excerpt

Byline: Vito Stellino

Both North Florida and Jacksonville University open the basketball season this weekend with "guaranteed'' road games.

That means the two Atlantic Sun Conference schools are paid by their bigger opponents to make the trip as a way to help fund their athletic budgets. UNF travels to Auburn Friday night; JU plays at Denver on Saturday.

The fact that UNF is playing an SEC team, while JU faces a lower-profile Summit League school, shows the difference in philosophy between the two programs.

UNF - unlike JU - doesn't have a football program so it needs the guaranteed basketball games against high-profile teams to bring in more revenue to the athletic program.

UNF is usually paid about $90,000 to $100,000 per guaranteed road game so the Ospreys will bring in close to half a million dollars to its athletic program with five such games on the schedule. And it's an impressive list of opponents: LSU, Syracuse, Arkansas and UConn, in addition to Auburn.

"It's a great opportunity to do something special,'' said UNF coach Matthew Driscoll, whose team also has home games this season against Florida and Miami.

JU's guaranteed road games this season are from smaller conferences: Denver, Air Force and Davidson, in addition to a tournament in Mobile, Ala., which includes Youngstown State, Florida International and South Alabama.

"Our coaches work very hard on the scheduling and guaranteed games are on our schedule," said JU athletic director Alex Ricker-Gilbert. "They just might not be as noticeable as some other programs guaranteed games. We want to look for some (non-conference) home and homes with mid-major programs where there is no money exchanged.''

Driscoll, in his eighth season, accepts UNF's challenging schedule as a tradeoff for bringing in added revenue.

"It'd be great if we didn't have to bring in that kind of revenue, but it is what it is,'' he said.

It's also a chance for the Ospreys, who went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time two years ago, to make national headlines. Though UNF (22-12 last season) is 2-35 all-time under Driscoll against power conference teams, the Ospreys beat Purdue two years ago and Illinois last season, raising the program's profile.

"It's great exposure for all of us,'' said senior guard Dallas Moore, the A-Sun Player of the Year last season. "And it helps us for our conference schedule, which is tough.''

In addition to the high-profile road games, Florida requested to play the Dec. 1 game in Jacksonville as the Gators face opponents across the state this season while the O'Connell Center undergoes renovations. In addition, the two schools will play again next season. Miami also agreed to play at UNF Arena this season.

"Miami was looking for a high RPI (ratings percentage index) game on the road,'' Driscoll said. …

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