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Arizona can schedule these schools to reduce travel costs in wake of coronavirus crisis

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 17 Women’s UTEP at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The coronavirus crisis is making many college athletic programs rethink their scheduling tactics. The Arizona Wildcats are no exception.

Athletic director Dave Heeke said earlier in the month that the UA is “ramping up” its regional scheduling to help reduce travel costs in this wretched economic climate, with the focus being on opponents from regions like Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and Southern California

“Some of those can be done with ground transportation, on bus transportation, or pretty direct quick commercial flights, so that helps with with the with the travel and the costs,” Heeke said. “So I think that will be a byproduct of the reductions that programs are trying to find in their operating budgets to manage through this really unstable time.”

So, Arizona softball traveling to Alabama? Arizona baseball heading to Houston? Women’s basketball checking out Chicago? Golf going to Hawaii? Not so fast.

Instead, you’re probably looking at more games against these non-Pac-12 Division I institutions, which are within a 550-mile radius of the UA—AKA an eight-hour (or shorter) bus ride:

  • GCU (WAC)*
  • NAU (Big Sky)
  • Southern Utah (Big Sky)
  • UTEP (Conference USA)
  • New Mexico (Mountain West)
  • New Mexico State (WAC/Independent)
  • UNLV (Mountain West)
  • San Diego State (Mountain West)
  • University of San Diego (WCC)*
  • UC San Diego (Big West)*
  • UC Irvine (Big West)*
  • Cal State Fullerton (Big West)*
  • Long Beach State (Big West)*
  • Loyola Marymount (WCC)*
  • Pepperdine (WCC)*
  • Cal State Northridge (Big West)*
  • UC Riverside (Big West)*
  • Cal Baptist (WAC)*

*doesn’t have a Division I football team

And here are some schools that are a less manageable 9-to-12-hour bus ride away:

  • BYU (WCC/Independent)
  • Cal Poly (Big West)
  • UC Santa Barbara (Big West)*
  • Texas Tech (Big 12)
  • Weber State (Big Sky)
  • UTSA (Conference USA)
  • Santa Clara (WCC)*
  • Saint Mary’s (WCC)*
  • Abilene Christian (Southland)
  • Air Force (Mountain West)
  • Utah Valley (WAC)*
  • Cal State Bakersfield (Big West)*
  • Pacific (WCC)*
  • San Jose State (Mountain West)
  • Fresno State (Mountain West)

*doesn’t have a Division I football team

Arizona does not have many quality regional rivals. Texas Tech is the only non-Pac-12 major-conference school in close proximity, and even that is stretching it if busing is the goal.

Still, there are some viable mid-major opponents within that eight-hour range for men’s basketball like San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico and New Mexico State. SDSU is one of the best programs in the West, and sometimes even the country. New Mexico, NMSU and UNLV have their moments too, and are better than other frequent UA opponents like Cal State Bakersfield and Long Beach State.

Plus, the Wildcats often recruit players from Las Vegas, so a home-and-home series with UNLV would give those prospects another chance to watch Arizona in person. (Though a regional tournament in Vegas would suffice too.)

Some of these games would defy the new Pac-12 men’s basketball scheduling guidelines that discourage its members from playing road games against non-power-conference foes, but these are not normal times and adjustments are necessary.

That said, it’s probably the non-revenue sports—everything except football and men’s basketball—that will be most impacted by an effort to cut travel costs.

Their schedules might look a lot like Arizona soccer’s in the spring, when NCAA rules prohibit teams from flying to their exhibitions. In other words, a heavy dose of UTEP, GCU, New Mexico and New Mexico State.

What’s interesting, and probably bound to change, is that none of those teams have appeared on Arizona soccer’s regular-season schedule since they faced New Mexico in 2007.

Arizona soccer hasn’t scheduled UTEP or UNLV in the regular season since 1999 and 2003, respectively. And they have never faced GCU, whose program was founded in 1996, or NMSU, whose program inaugurated in 2009.

Even NAU, a yearly opponent for both UA basketball programs, hasn’t appeared on UA soccer’s schedule since 2015.