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‘It’s like Playing Whack-A-Mole’: The Difficulties of Scheduling Basketball Games During a Pandemic



(Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)

Josh Eilert said he was enjoying an evening with his family Tuesday when he was West Virginia University basketball coach Bob Huggins’ name come across his cell phone and he knew something had happened.

West Virginia’s director of basketball operations, part of Eilert’s job is putting together WVU’s non-conference schedule. When Eilert learned that Robert Morris, scheduled to play at WVU on Wednesday, had to cancel due to COVID, he stayed up until 2 a.m. sending emails and leaving voicemails looking for a replacement.

Eilert’s search was initially in vain, as various factors have complicated scheduling games during the pandemic.

“If it doesn’t make sense for them or their AD isn’t on board or their state has certain guidelines, a lot of things have to align for it to happen,” Eilert said Thursday. “A lot of people will forget about the testing as well. We have certain testing guidelines for the Big 12 so replacing a game on short notice has got to work with testing as well.”

WATCH: WVU Director of Basketball Operations Josh Eilert Explains Difficulties of Scheduling New Games

Eliter guessed he made around 50 calls before he was finally able to set up a game between WVU and North Texas for Friday.

“I’m guessing I probably talked to 50 schools,” Eilert said. “There’s just so many moving parts in all of this in terms of logistics and timing and everything. Someone can show some interest but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to call you back and it’s going to work for them.”

Huggins said he would never have been able to find a replacement without Eilert.

“I’m old school, I pick up the phone and call them and say, ‘Hey, do you want to play?’,” Huggins said. “Josh is way, way, way ahead of me.”

WATCH: Bob Huggins Previews WVU’s Last-Minute Game Against North Texas

Huggins did schedule a game for WVU earlier this season the “old-school” way, but Eilert said he has access to databases, posting boards and contacts throughout the country that make it a little easier for him. Eilert said one of the toughest things about this season is trying to fit 27 games into a shortened schedule.

“When they shortened the season and moved it back two weeks, I argued it didn’t make sense,” Eilert said. “If you want to limit the games to 27, okay but move the season up two weeks so there’s more room to make adjustments. Now you’re on a shorter window trying to pack games in and you want to do it safely and you want to have the right opponent and do right by your student-athletes. Shortening the season to fit in a certain amount of games didn’t seem like the right answer to me.”

Eilert said he and Huggins worked so hard to schedule a new game because they are both committed to playing a full 27-game schedule, something Huggins said other teams are not committed to.

“We owe it to the kids,” Huggins said. “In my mind, we owe it to the fans as well but we owe it to the kids as well.”

WVU will host North Texas at the Coliseum on Friday afternoon then turn around and host Richmond Sunday. Huggins said he had hoped to schedule a new game for either Wednesday or Thursday to give the team more time in between games, but he was happy to have a game regardless.

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