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HomeSportsUT
Published: Sunday, 12/12/2004

Playing Duke cost UT home game

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

In order to pull off the historic meeting with Duke, the Rockets had to juggle their schedule and give up a highly prized commodity - a rare non-conference home game.

A meeting at Savage Hall with Siena was scrubbed in order to clear the calendar for Duke.

UT coach Stan Joplin, whose team will play in Savage Hall just twice this season before the first of the year, said before the season started that he wasn't completely comfortable with the price attached to the Duke game.

"There is no question that this is a great game for us, and it's not that I don't want to play Duke," Joplin said, "it's just that I didn't want to give up a home game to do it. We need to build up a strong following with our fans, and it's hard to do that when you don't play many games at home."

The Rockets had to scramble to get a home game against Lake Superior State, a Division II team, once the Duke deal came up and the Siena game was wiped out. Toledo played just two of its first nine games last season at home.

"That's the first Division II team we've had in Savage Hall in a long time, but we just had to get another home game," Joplin said. "Nobody wants to come in here and play us."

The Lake Superior State game is Dec. 29, but due to their holiday break, many UT students won't see the Rockets again until a Jan. 12 game at Savage against Ball State. Toledo's only previous home game this season was Tuesday against Nevada.

"What happens is that school starts back up here in the second week of January, so the students won't be here to see us play for about a month," Joplin said. "With the way the schedule is, after the Duke game there is no continuity at all for us."

Joplin said the Rockets will receive $40,000 for playing Duke, and they got $50,000 for last year's visit to Louisville, but he would take an additional home game over the financial gain.

"Part of the problem is that nobody wants to play us here," Joplin said. "We've been contacted by a lot of teams that want us to come to their place, but over the last five years, our non-conference schedule at home has been pretty bad. And it's tough to build up a following when your fans don't see you play for long stretches of time."

Joplin said an additional concern of his with the Duke game is that it falls at the beginning of exam week at UT. He thinks the hype involved with playing Duke will make study time difficult, and the fact that exams will await them when they return could impact the players' preparation for the game.

"The two things don't mix real well, and I'm concerned the kids won't be concentrating because of exams," Joplin said. "I don't think it was fair to put our players in that position. I don't think we were looking out for the best interests of our student-athletes."

After facing Duke, the Rockets return home for final exams, then leave at the end of the week for a three-day tournament in Puerto Rico.



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