The number of regular-season games NCAA Division I men's and women's basketball teams are allowed to schedule this season will remain at 27, according to a news release by the NCAA on Monday.
Three weeks ago, the NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Basketball Oversight Committees laid down rules for the 2020-21 season in response to the pandemic, including a start date of Nov. 25, which is just after most college campuses around the country will close for the semester.
One of the other major decisions stemming from that announcement was how many games Division I men's and women's teams would be able to schedule. It effectively reduced the number of games teams could have by four, as the season start was pushed back 15 days from Nov. 10 to Nov. 25.
For men's basketball teams, they'll be allowed to play 25 regular-season games if they don't participate in a multi-team event, such as a tournament. However, men's teams are still allowed to participate in 25 regular-season games along with one multi-team event that has up to two games or 24 regular-season contests with one multi-team event that has up to three games.
For women's basketball, there is a cap of 25 regular-season games if a team doesn't participate in any multi-team event. If a women's basketball program decides to participate in a multi-team event with up to four games, its regular-season schedule is to be capped at 23 games.
A blanket waiver for teams wanting to schedule 27 games with no multi-team event was discussed, the release said.
“The Division I Council supported the oversight committee’s maximum contest limitations proposal in September,” NCAA Senior Vice President for Basketball Dan Gavitt said in the release. “The oversight committee members believe amending the legislation now could further delay the scheduling process and possibly create unintended consequences.”
While this decision likely won't alter the plans of major-conference teams, mid- and low major schools — like the University of Montana — will have to adapt. The Grizzlies typically don't get invitations to large tournaments with lucrative payouts.
This means that they look for "buy" games, where larger teams with larger revenue pay them to come play. The Grizzlies played four of those games last year and received $355,000 to do so.
However, with an uncertain season ahead due to COVID-19, these games have been more difficult to find. Some larger schools have already cut sports, making more lucrative payouts to play basketball games much harder to find.
Add in the fact that no games could be officially scheduled until the start date for Division I basketball was announced in mid-September, and you have a massive scramble to find competitive dates.
Many, if not all, Big Sky schools are in a similar position as the Grizzlies.
"We rely on buy game money in the athletic department as a whole," Ryan Martin, UM's senior associate athletic director and athletic department chief financial officer recently told ESPN. "We subsidize salaries for basketball coaches."
UM has yet to release its full men's and women's basketball schedule. UM athletic director Kent Haslam told the Missoulian and 406mtsports.com in September that there was a chance the schedule may not be finished until early November.