The most eye-popping college basketball score of this season came on Monday night as Southern University trounced Champion Baptist in a 116-12 massacre. The Jaguars scored the first 44 points of the game to set a new NCAA record, and Champion Baptist shot a disastrous 3 of 44 (6.8 percent) from the field.
Of course, a score that ugly raises an important question: What the heck’s a Champion Baptist, and where does it come from? More importantly, how does it end up on a NCAA Division I team’s schedule?
First things first. Champion Baptist isn’t a member of Division I, Division II, Division III or even the NAIA. In fact, it’s not even an accredited university. It’s a four-year vocational college in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The Tigers (this took some serious research) are a member of the Association of Christian Collegiate Athletics, which boasts such schools as Crowley’s Ridge College, Hillsdale Free Will Bible College (hopefully that school becomes big enough for some kid to blare “I will choose free will!” out of a speaker during his signing ceremony instead of pulling out a hat) and Moltnomah University. Providence College is also a member — albeit the one in Manitoba.
How did they end up on the schedule of a team that was in the NCAA Tournament last year? That’s a matter of economics.
All small Division I programs are forced to play “guarantee games” in their non-conference schedule in order to make ends meet financially. This is especially true in Louisiana, where budget cuts to schools have forced athletic departments to become more self-sufficient.
With so many guarantee games — Southern traveled to Marquette, Florida, Arizona and Baylor this season, for instance — teams have fewer chances for wins. And when you made the NCAA Tournament like Southern did last season, it can be tough to get home-and-home games with fellow small-major programs, who are also trying to find winnable games.
Thus we have the addition of non-D-I programs such as Champion Baptist on the schedule. For those schools, it is a chance to meet their modest budgets. And for the small D-I programs, it is a chance to pick up hard-to-find non-conference wins at home.
Should these games be played? Probably not. But without a commissioner of Division I basketball, it is hard to imagine that they will stop happening. The ideal solution would be for major programs to cut down on the number of guarantee games and actually schedule home-and-home games against the little guys. That would allow those programs to fill their arenas on a given night and self-produce the revenue that is usually handed to them in a check.
Of course, big schools don’t want to take that risk, because no one wants that potential bubble-bursting loss hanging over them on Selection Sunday. That may be good for them, but it’s bad for the game as a whole since it brings us results like Southern 116, Champion Baptist 12.