New schedule makes dollars, sense

YOUNGSTOWN — DePaul, Butler, Utah State and Indiana are more than guaranteed games on Youngstown State’s schedule.

The Penguins men’s basketball team has games scheduled against all four in the month of December — from Dec. 2 at DePaul, Dec. 9 at Butler, Dec. 20 at Utah State and Dec. 29 at Indiana.

The total is $355,000 for those four games. The top two games, Indiana ($95,000) and Utah State ($90,000), go to the YSU Athletic Department. The remaining $170,000, plus $55,000 for a late-November Sanford Pentagon Showcase and a Dec. 18 trip to Idaho State ($10,000), is part of a non-conference schedule to prepare for Horizon League play. The Idaho State game includes two nights of hotel accommodations.

The Penguins’ games against DePaul and Butler, most likely afternoon contests, are going to be televised on FS1, which has a contract with the Big East. Root Sports televises Mountain West games, which cover the Utah State contest.

Then, there’s a possibility the Indiana game is going to be on the Big Ten Network. Last year’s YSU at Michigan State game was on ESPNU, which is a possibility as well for the Indiana game.

“We’re playing four very, very good programs,” YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun said.

“They all come from great conferences. In recruiting anymore, one of the questions that commonly comes up is, ‘What’s your non-conference schedule?’ “

The season starts Nov. 11 at Akron as part of the annual Northeast Ohio Coaches vs. Cancer Classic with Kent State, Akron, YSU and Cleveland State. YSU plays KSU this year and Akron in 2018 when the tournament is at Cleveland State.

The Sanford Pentagon Classic is Nov. 24-26 versus Northern Colorado, Southern Mississippi and host South Dakota — a tournament worth $45,000 to YSU. Included in the tournament is a Nov. 21 home game against Westminster.

The tournament was a secondary option because the Penguins were slated to play at a UNC-Greensboro tournament with High Point and IPFW, but the Fort Wayne, Ind., school pulled out — leaving YSU in search of a tournament around Thanksgiving.

The $45,000 the Penguins are getting from this tournament is three times as much as last year’s at South Alabama.

“It was our best option, in all honesty,” said Kevin Bruinsma, YSU Director of Player Personnel. “We were trying to host one here, but it was very difficult.

“With the things we wanted to do, we’ll take the guarantee games, take the money and do that.”

There’s other fundraising that takes place during the offseason, such as the annual tipoff dinner and wine taste this fall. Calhoun is starting a Sixth Man Club, which has a goal of $100,000 to $150,000. This is done through donations to the men’s basketball team. So far, there’s $70,000.

The monies from these ventures and the guarantee games go to recruiting, first and foremost. There’s some other ideas Calhoun and his staff have as well, like upgrades to the locker room area.

“It’s important we have an area they can go into throughout the day and before and after games that they are comfortable with — a place they don’t want to leave,” Calhoun said. “We want our facilities to be places where our kids can be very proud of.”

He’d like to bring some of the tradition back to YSU, honoring former players and coaches by having artwork outside the film room and locker room areas.

Along with that, the program would like to have past players visit for an alumni weekend.

“At that point, we can show them some of the renovations that we’ve been able to accomplish,” Calhoun said. “We want to make sure they feel they’re part of our family.”

As for the schedule, it is usually started a year in advance. Bruinsma had Butler and DePaul on the schedule prior to Calhoun arriving in Youngstown. Bruinsma is working on getting either Ohio State or West Virginia at a game at the Covelli Centre either in 2018 or 2019. YSU would have to play two games at either school in coming seasons as part of the deal.

“It shows we’re willing to play anybody, anywhere, anytime,” Calhoun said. “We want to do this every year. We want to challenge ourselves in that non-conference. At the end of the day, it’s about playing your best throughout an entire season.

“I think our guys understand from a scheduling standpoint that we have to bring it every night.”