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Published: Tuesday, 11/27/2001

Bringing in the Big Ten

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - It has been 34 years since Harold Anderson passed away, but the legendary Bowling Green State University basketball coach is still winning games for the Falcons.

The arena that bears Anderson's name is one of the toughest places in the country for visiting teams to play, so the potential opponents are not exactly lining up for the opportunity.

Far from it.

BG's game with Michigan in Anderson Arena tomorrow night represents a rare foray into the “House That Roars” for a team from one of the major conferences. In the last 10 years, only one current Big Ten member has visited Anderson Arena - Penn State in 1993.

Michigan has not played here since the 1966-67 season, when it lost 90-83. UM leads the series 6-2, with all other games played in Ann Arbor.

BG does not lose many games in its intimate and hostile environment. The Falcons have won more than 72 percent of their home games in the building's 40 years, and is 30-4 in non-conference home games over the last eight seasons.

BG coach Dan Dakich knows that fact alone, no doubt, scares off a lot of people.

“The reality of it is, you have to play some games at home,” Dakich said. “You could play an all-Big Ten road schedule if that's what you want to do, but realistically you have to play at home, and there aren't too many people willing to come in here and play at our place.

“The only people willing to do that this year (agree to a home-and-home deal) was Detroit. When I say the only people willing to do that, I'm talking about the only people in the nation willing to do that. I'm not talking about the only people in this region.”

Dakich, who does the majority of the scheduling, said he has been able to arrange a home-and-home series with teams like North Carolina-Wilmington and Marist, who will visit BG this season, and Duquesne and Evansville, who the Falcons will play on the road this year after hosting last season.

Dakich said he has been in contact with teams from all of the major conferences, but few will even consider making a visit to Anderson Arena part of any contract. He is willing to play just about anywhere in exchange, but non-monetary concerns cause many to balk at that.

“It's not financial, because what we want is a home-and-home - it's a swap,” Dakich said. “I think a lot of it is probably concern about the building we play in, particularly when you talk to the so-called high major leagues. They'll call about playing and I'll ask when they want to come here - and that's the end of the conversation. They want you to come there for a one-shot, cash deal, and then be done with you.”

Dakich said the complexity of scheduling also keeps away some attractive opponents.

“They're all interested in us going there,” Dakich said. “But it's not just concern over coming here to play with some of them. You still have to make it work, and sometimes the schedule just does not allow it. Valparaiso has always wanted to play us, and we want to play them, but we just could not come up with the dates to make it work.”

The deal that brings Michigan to BG requires the Falcons to play three times in Ann Arbor to get one game in Anderson Arena. BG does receive $25,000 for each of the visits to Ann Arbor.

Dakich said that he recalled only three times in 16 years that the Indiana teams he played on and coached put themselves in a similar position on the road. The Hoosiers usually had home-and-home deals with Notre Dame and Kentucky, a couple more home games from the Indiana Classic, and then brought in several more mid-majors for one-shot deals.

“I knew nothing about the difficulty of MAC scheduling before I came here,” said Dakich, who is in his fifth season at BG. “It might be the most frustrating part of this job. Sometimes we don't get the schedule done until September.”

While it is difficult to deal with, Dakich said he understands why many teams would be hesitant to come play at Anderson Arena.

“I remember playing in places like this where the seats were right down to the floor and it seemed like the students were out on the court the whole game. It looked like there was nowhere to pass the ball. That's the value of an arena like this.”

The lobby of Memorial Hall was filled with students at 7:30 yesterday morning, waiting to get the 1,500 tickets set aside for them to get in to the sold-out affair with Michigan. Dakich said he expects them to be dressed in war paint and shaking the girders.

“In our arena, you can't give a point value to that,” Dakich said. “In other arenas there can be a crazy crowd and you never know it because they're so far back. But here, there are days when you don't start out so well, but the crowd just won't let you lose. This place has been really good for us.”



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