The Erie Times today announced that the PSAC will play a full West-East crossover schedule in men's and women's basketball starting next season (2011-12). Currently, Gannon faces every West opponent twice and just 4 East teams. In the future, Gannon will continue to play every West opponent home-and-home plus they'll play each of the PSAC's 8 East clubs once. (Those crossover games still won't count in the conference standings, though.) If you're keeping score at home, 14 West games plus 8 East games equals a whopping 22 conference contests. Add that to the NCAA's reduction of regular season games from 27 to only 26 for all Division II schools, and that leaves just four independent contests for the Knights.
So what does that mean for the Gary Miller Classic and the Porreco Cup? Either way it's not good news. I'm thinking GU is going to have to drop at least one (if not both) of the annual events. Even if one of them survives, look for a dubious first night matchup featuring Penn State Greater Allegheny vs. Daemen in the opener and Gannon vs. D'Youville in the nightcap. D'You won't need to wait in a ticket line for that doubleheader.
And you couldn't blame Gannon for padding their schedule in that fashion. If all but 4 of their games will be against legitimate, in-region DII clubs, they're going to need those breathers on their schedule.
Last year's non-PSAC games featured Urbana twice, Lake Erie twice, Northern Kentucky, Glenville State, Daemen, Seton Hill, and Taylor. Next fall, you'll wipe one of those games off the slate completely (thanks NCAA -- all the athletes now completely have Balance In Life) and then pick four others and replace them with Cheyney, West Chester, Shippensburg, and Millersville. Not a bad trade from a quality-of-opponent perspective.
But back to the tournaments. Remember when Juan Rankin, in front of a roaring Audi throng, hit a three at the buzzer to capture the 1989 Porreco Cup over eventual national champion Virginia Union? That will never happen again. Not just because Rankin is now 40 years old and on the golf course, not the hardwood. If we're talking Urbana/Gannon in the championship game, only a crowd of 1,300 at the most is showing up. And Urbana's not going to eventually win a national championship in anything other than tiddlywinks.
So, the days of 6 or 7 feeble non-conference opponents are gone. But so could be legendary Miller Classic and Porreco Cup games, which is a real shame for a Gannon traditionalist. Somewhere Justin Walther (two-time GM Classic MVP from Pitt-Johnstown), Michael Hammond (the sharpshooting 1986 Cup MVP from C.W. Post), Lambert Shell (1990 Porreco MVP for eventual DII runner-up Bridgeport), Jamie Waller (NBA draft pick from Va. Union) and Julius Erving (if you don't know who he is, that's your problem) are feeling a little blue. OK, maybe they're not. But I am.