The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater athletics programs have been on the road more than normal during the 2017 Fall season and that’s because recent dominance makes scheduling home games difficult.
“With the national profile that we’ve come accustomed to, winning championships, it’s hard to get people to want to come and play you,” said UW-W Director of Athletics Todd Garzarelli. “Especially at your own venue. It happens at every level, when you get good people don’t want to come and play you.”
Garzarelli is in his first year as the director of athletics here at UW-W and did not do most of the scheduling for the fall 2017 athletics schedule.
Before losing to John Carroll in the NCAA D-III quarterfinal, the UW-W football team won 32 straight games at Perkins Stadium. The football team’s first home game in the 2016 season was before move-in day on Sept. 3, and by week four the Warhawks had already played three home games winning by an average of 36 points per game.
Fast forward to the 2017 season and the Warhawks are playing their fourth straight game on the road to open their season. This long road run has head coach Kevin Bullis and his team looking forward to returning home to Whitewater.
“We love playing in the Perk, we love playing at home.” Bullis said about Perkins Stadium “Just cause it is such a special place to play. We have so many fans that show up and make it tough on other teams.”
Scheduling for football is made even tougher by the WIAC Conference only having eight teams compared to other conferences having nine. This lack of a ninth team in the conference makes it difficult to align with other program’s bye weeks because they start their conference schedule one week earlier.
UW-W football isn’t the only sport that has a tough time getting other schools to come here to take them on. The women’s soccer team opened their season with five straight road games.
“From a number of [home] contests standpoint it’s probably the fewest in my four years here,” Assistant Athletic Director Chris Lindeke said.
Lindeke thinks this fall is more of an abnormal season then a trend of fewer and fewer home games.
Garzarelli says avoiding the long road trips to start the season is a big goal of his moving forward.
“We’re trying to do some strategic scheduling moving forward.” Garzarelli said, “We’re trying to schedule five-six years out, kind of like D I, but it’s becoming harder and harder to get teams to come here and play.”
The men’s soccer team opened their season with eight of their first nine games on the road. Garzarelli thinks it’s more than just the dominance of the individual sports, but instead the strength that the Warhawk brand overall has built.
UW-W is working on building relationships and rivalries with top flight Division 3 programs across the country to remedy this in the future. These rivalries would help UW-W secure at least one home game and one away game with top programs in the future.
“I’ve talked to five or six teams that would like to develop an annual rivalry with within the region,” Garzarelli said.
Garzarelli could not say exactly what schools the deals would be with, but assured that they are “top-10 top-15 type institutions across the board like us” .
He also stated that there is no distance too far for these rivalries as long as it would be fiscally responsible for the Warhawks athletics programs.