The University of Toledo men's basketball team will warm up for what will most likely be its role as the preseason favorite in the Mid-American Conference race with a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium in mid-December to face national power Duke.
Although the Rockets have not yet released their schedule, UT athletic director Mike O'Brien confirmed yesterday that the contract with Duke has been signed and returned.
Duke has had Toledo on its schedule since it was announced last week. Athletic department officials in Durham, N.C., confirmed that tickets for the 8 p.m. contest on Dec. 12 are part of the package for Duke season-ticket holders. The game will be televised nationally on FOX Sports Net.
Toledo coach Stan Joplin said Tuesday that he was hesitant to take on the Duke game, since doing so would require UT to give up a home game against Siena, scheduled for the previous night at Savage Hall. Siena was one of just two home non-conference games at UT this season on the preliminary schedule.
"We have to get some more home games," Joplin said. "Right now, if we give up Siena, our only home [non-conference] game is with Nevada. That's just not fair for our fans."
Nevada is obligated to play at Savage Hall as part of last season's ESPN Bracket Buster agreement, which sent the Rockets
to Reno. Toledo is playing in the Bracket Buster again this season, but Joplin has been informed by the MAC that the game will also be on the road.
Toledo's non-conference schedule for this year is already top-heavy with road games. The Rockets had previously committed to playing at Vanderbilt, East Carolina and Wright State, as well as an appearance in a tournament in Puerto Rico in late December that will include three games.
Joplin said he also received calls from Georgia Tech, Kansas and Syracuse expressing an interest in facing the Rockets this season, but all three wanted to play only if UT would face them on the road.
"We're still talking with some people, trying to work some things out," Joplin said.
He indicated that he might have to schedule a Division II team, just to get another non-conference opponent into Savage Hall before the end of the year.
Joplin said the situation for the 2005-06 season is much better, since he already has contracts for six non-conference home games: Oakland, East Carolina, St. Bonaventure, Wright State, Indiana-Purdue/Ft. Wayne and a Bracket Buster opponent yet to be determined.
In Duke, Toledo will face a team that has won three national championships and more than 80 percent of its games at Cameron. Duke, 31-6 last season, returns nine letter-winners and three starters from last year.
Duke has won 133 of its last 136 games against non-conference opponents in Cameron.
Although the Duke students known as the Cameron Crazies will be on break when the Rockets visit Durham, Duke officials said those available student-section tickets have been offered to season ticket holders first and will likely be sold out. Approximately 75 tickets are expected to be made available to Toledo, an athletic department spokesman at Duke said.
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