Men’s Basketball: How much the non-conference schedule costs the athletic department


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Chris Collins yells from the sideline. Northwestern has lost two of its first three games to start the season.

Charlie Goldsmith, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

Northwestern men’s basketball pays $75,000 to $95,000 for every non-conference home game against a low major team, according to game contracts obtained by The Daily from the last six years. These “buy games” –– intended to fill the schedule with competition against lower caliber NCAA teams –– cost the Wildcats around $400,000 per year.

NU usually plays five low-major opponents each season, and these games can be pricey. The Cats typically schedule teams from low major conferences, and they’ve already lost two of those games this year.

And these losses don’t come cheap.

In December, NU will play Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, which plays in the Ohio Valley Conference. In an agreement signed on March, 4, 2019, the Cats’ Athletic Department commited to pay SIUE $95,000 for this game before conference play ramps up.

When these two schools played each other in December 2015, it only cost NU $75,000, but the price to play SIUE has risen almost 27 percent in four years.

In the standard contract signed between the Cats and a low major school, the visiting team receives the fee, 50-100 tickets to the game and agrees to grant the home team radio and television rights. The contract also explicitly states that the visiting team will be “furnished” programs in their locker room at least an hour before the game.

The Daily obtained seven game contracts from over the past six years, with all of the game fees around $80,000 or around $90,000. The cost to play SIUE this season –– which was the only game contract acquired from 2019 –– had the highest price tag at $95,000. NU paid a slightly lower price to schedule a home game last season against Binghamton, costing $90,000. Games against Central Michigan and North Florida over the past few years were on the low end, costing $75,000 and $80,000 respectively.

NU plays 20 games every season against Big Ten opponents, leaving ten games for non-conference opponents. Two of those games are determined by the conference as a part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge or the Gavitt Tipoff Games, an annual series between the Big Ten and the Big East.

The Cats also participate in a non-exempt event or an early season tournament at a neutral site that features four or eight teams. This season, NU will play in the Fort Myers Tip-Off and compete against Bradley and Kansas State or Pittsburgh.

In addition, the Cats have an ongoing series with crosstown rival DePaul, played at alternating campuses through 2024.

But the five remaining games NU determines for itself have proven to be the most dangerous ones of the 2019 season.

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