UALR chose not to participate in the pay for play postseason men's basketball tournaments, even one in which it wouldn't have cost them anything. UALR is playing in the women's National Invitation Tournament and will have to fork over $10,000 up front.
Why? Because UALR failed to bid to host a home game in the tournament (according to last week's Statewide). The WNIT then sent UALR to play Pacific on Friday night in Stockton, Calif.
WNIT bylaws state that "a team pays the first $10,000 of its travel expenses (air, hotel, bus) during the tournament and the WNIT reimburses the team for all expenses above that level. It does not matter now many games that includes; once the $10,000 has been met, the reimbursement kicks in and covers the entire tournament)."
Considering round trip flights from Little Rock to San Francisco departing Thursday are currently priced well over $1,000 and a charter flight would be even more expensive, UALR will easily meet the $10,000 limit in its first game. That doesn't include hotels, ground transportation once they reach California and per diem.
The positive going forward is that UALR doesn't have to pay to travel again throughout it's life in the tournament. UALR could also bid on future home games, but the price gets more expensive the further teams advance in the tournament.
I have to question why the WNIT, which will have to pick up all of UALR's additional expenses on this trip and all expenses going forward, would send the Trojans to California. It's very unlike what they typically do.
UALR-Pacific will be one of the tournament's best first-round matchups. But even that seems to violate the principles the WNIT utilizes.
While the WNIT doesn't seed teams, its bylaws do state that "first-round pairings will be determined initially in team strength (i.e. a top tier team plays a bottom tier team; a middle tier team plays a middle tier team) and then may be adjusted with consideration to school location, conference and prior meetings among the teams, among other factors."
It's hard to believe the WNIT would consider UALR to be a "bottom tier" thing. UALR's RPI finished at 65 this season. Likewise, Pacific was very good with a 47 RPI. It's hard to imagine either was "middle tier" either. To compare, Memphis (128 RPI) is traveling to Arkansas (78) for a first-round game.
Did the WNIT punish UALR for its unwillingness to host? Whatever the reason, something seems askew.