UNC vs. Kentucky in July? Why not?
While listening to the Carolina Insider Podcast that was released on Friday, Adam Lucas mentioned a proposal that is gaining steam within the NCAA to allow teams to host actual “scrimmages” during the summer practice period.
These aren’t the closed scrimmages that teams are allowed to play in the fall before the regular season begins either. These scrimmages could be open to the public, providing opportunities to fans to see their favorite teams at at a time when the sports calendar is pretty empty. Per Lucas, teams would be allowed to schedule two contests: either two separate contests, or one tournament that would consist of two games, and the proposal would go for both men’s and women’s basketball.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, thank the guy coaching Kentucky for putting it in your brain. Last year, John Calipari had a wide ranging interview on the future of college basketball, and one of the things he specifically asked for was summer basketball games. As our sister site A Sea of Blue wrote in summarizing the interview, the summer games would provide plenty of opportunities to increase revenue for all parties involved. For conferences, these are new games that aren’t part of their package deals with the networks and thus they could be sold separately if handled right, and for the players, it would create more NIL opportunities as they’ll have exposure during a very quiet time of year for college sports.
It’s not hard to imagine blue blood programs seizing on the opportunity to schedule matchups that have basically disappeared in the age of expanding conference schedules. You barely see any good matchups like UNC/Kentucky or Duke/Indiana in a home and home anymore just because teams don’t have the motivation to schedule them. Almost all of the big conferences have moved to 20 game schedules, and with the multi-team events that teams have been moving to in an effort to maximize revenue opportunities, there’s just no room for marquee home and home games.
The summer scrimmages provide opportunities for these types of events. Maybe UNC and Kentucky one summer decide to play a home-and-home, providing the spectacle of full arenas in July, and there’s a no-stress situation where the winner isn’t having to recover after a loss. Maybe they join up with two other squads to host an event in Charlotte, which becomes a two-day extravaganza and provides an opportunity for fans to watch their favorite squads play a couple more times.
Besides the obvious revenue opportunities, there is a practical purpose to these events. As the article above noted, every other level of basketball has some sort of summer competition. There are multiple AAU tournaments going on, and the NBA has its summer league. College is the only level where teams can just practice against each other instead of using an actual game to improve their skill and help coaches focus on what they need to teach as fall practices begin a few weeks later.
In the rapidly changing nature of college basketball and their teams, it’s hard not to imagine the benefit that incoming freshmen and transfers would gain by having to play actual games against other teams instead of just practicing against the same guys. There’s only so much they can learn about each other in practice.
The only handcuff in the proposal is that players can’t miss class in order to participate in these scrimmages. Yes, you’re allowed to roll your eyes as you think back to a team that had to fly down to play a game in Miami on a Monday night at 7 PM.
All signs seem to point to the legislation being passed in time for teams to make plans on 2024 summer scrimmages. We’ll see how quickly they can move this forward as it’s clear coaches want this.