The Pac-12 and SWAC announced a partnership on Monday that will notably see Pac-12 schools travel to SWAC gyms for non-conference games starting in the 2022-23 season. Men’s and women’s programs will both be involved, and the partnership will also include joint efforts between league schools to promote social justice and anti-racism.
This undoubtedly exciting and a good thing.
The Pac-12 release was chock full of good quotes from administrators and coaches, summed up well by Florida A&M coach Robert McCullum, whose Rattlers are making the move from the MEAC the SWAC this upcoming season.
“I could not be more excited about the challenges and unique opportunities presented by the creation of the partnership between the SWAC and the Pac-12,” said FLORIDA A&M head coach Robert McCullum. “We will travel to our sixth Pac-12 opponent during my tenure at FAMU this season, and having spent three years on Oregon’s staff, I know all too well the challenges each team presents; obviously the big difference will come in being able to host Pac-12 teams on our campuses - it doesn’t get any better than that! I also value the many educational benefits our student-athletes will experience from traveling to the respective cities and campuses. Dr. Charles McClelland is to be commended for such an accomplishment.”
The partnership’s headliner is the tangible social justice effort taking place but, as McCullum mentions, there are clear basketball benefits for the SWAC schools when the West Coast biggies come to their respective campuses. Here are some details:
The simple fact is that scheduling home non-conference games, with anyone, is difficult for SWAC schools. As has been covered on this site before, university athletics budgets depend on the buy games SWAC (and MEAC) programs need to gobble up across the country in November and December.
This can lead to some tremendously fun moments, like FAMU dispatching Iowa State on the road on New Year’s Eve 2019.
“As important as the win was, my greatest joy comes from seeing the smiles on their faces,” McCullum told us at the time.
Maybe one of those magic moments happens when the Pac-12 schools make any of their trips starting next season. But even if all the heavy West Coast favorites prevail, the games will provide opportunities SWAC programs just don’t normally see.
In the 2019-20 season, the 12 SWAC men’s programs averaged just 2.1 non-conference home games per school, and that included Alabama State not playing a home non-conference game at all. For the rest, the opponents stacked up like this (Div. 1 opponents in bold):
- North Alabama
- Jacksonville State
- Jarvis Christian
- Huston Tillotson
- Loyola (LA)
- Ecclesia (three schools faced Ecclesia)
- Concordia (TX)
- Southern New Orleans
- Southeastern Baptist
- East Texas Baptist
- Paul Quinn (two schools faced Paul Quinn)
- Rust (two schools faced Rust)
- Our Lady of the Lake
- Champion Christian
- North American
This not to poke fun at NAIA or NCCAA programs or to make the overdone “look at this random school!” joke. These are important games for SWAC programs weary from road-heavy non-conference schedules. Getting a game with a Pac-12 program will obviously be a much bigger event, and give SWAC programs a chance to really connect with their respective university communities.
The final game of the 2019-20 season saw 4,275 people pack into Southern’s F.G. Clark Center as the Jaguars battled Prairie View A&M, then a matchup of the first and second place teams in the league. Putting a marquee game on display in November gives schools that type of opportunity right away, and that can’t be a bad thing.
Could an upset be brewing? We’ll just put one piece of information out there, with which you can do what you please. Alabama A&M was responsible for three of the Div. I non-conference home games in the above list, getting Troy, North Alabama and Jacksonville State to travel to Normal in 2019. The Bulldogs went 8-22 (5-13) that season, but they won all three of those games.
Take from that what you will.