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Originally published December 26, 2013 at 8:59 PM | Page modified December 26, 2013 at 9:06 PM

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For big hoops programs like Washington, a check can yield an easy win

Teams like Mississippi Valley State, whom UW plays on Friday, collect appearance fees to play larger schools — and usually lose.


Seattle Times staff reporter

Friday

Mississippi Valley State @ Washington7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

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Five days ago, the Washington men’s basketball team hosted a top-10 team for the first time in eight years, which created an excitement on campus unlike any other game this season.

On Friday night, the Huskies will bring a team to Alaska Airlines Arena that most UW fans have never heard of.

Three-time national champion Connecticut is one of the marquee programs in college basketball, while Mississippi Valley State is on the opposite end of the spectrum, having posted just five NCAA tournament appearances in its history.

The Delta Devils are a trivia question due to their quirky nickname, and only the most die-hard sports fans can name their most famous athletic alum — Hall of Fame football player Jerry Rice.

On the basketball court, MVSU is infamous because of its 55-game road losing streak against nonconference opponents.

Given their futility in away games, you’d think the Delta Devils would stay closer to home. However, cash-strapped schools like Mississippi Valley are forced on the road in November and December to financially support the athletic department.

Call them guarantee games or money games, but the first two months of the college basketball season are full of such contests, in which lower-tier teams are paid large sums of money to show up. Appearance fees, they’re often called.

Mississippi Valley State collected an $80,000 check from Washington before its 7:30 p.m. game. The Delta Devils also received a similar sum from Washington State for its 5 p.m. game on Saturday.

“It’s a little unfair, the scheduling, but that’s life and it’s what we have to do,” MVSU coach Chico Potts said. “It’s a grind, but we’re used to it.”

The Delta Devils (3-7) stand to make as much as $720,000 this season in appearance fees. They’re 0-7 on the road, including a 117-62 season-opening loss at then-No. 8 Oklahoma State.

In the past 12 years, MVSU has posted a 2-89 record in nonconference road games.

Almost 10 years ago, Mississippi Valley State upset Northwestern 49-47 on Dec. 28, 2003. It was the last time MVSU beat a team from a power conference.

“Our goal and mission is to play (Friday) night and have some success,” Potts said. “Yes, it’s a fund-raiser for our institution, but you give a kid a ball and a chance and anything can happen.”

The Harlem Globetrotters had the Washington Generals and the major Division I basketball teams have the Southwestern Athletic Conference, a 10-team league comprised of historically black colleges. None of the teams has a winning record.

Technically, Washington and Mississippi Valley State are two of 351 Division I schools.

However, the disparity between the programs is about as wide as the distance between Seattle and Itta Bena, Miss., where MSVU resides.

According to figures released by the NCAA on its 344 public institutions, in 2012 MVSU spent $785,705 on its men’s basketball team, while Washington’s budget was $6.3 million.

Washington poured more money in the men’s basketball team than the $4.6 million MVSU spent on its entire 13-sport athletic department.

The Huskies (6-5) spent $420,000 total on five guarantee games. Washington is 3-0 in those contests, with Sunday’s nonconference finale against Hartford still to come.

“The goal for these next two games is to prepare us for next Thursday and the (Pac-12) season,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “We’ve already played 11 games. We learned a lot about ourselves. We’ve made mistakes. We’ve done some positive things. We have a pretty good feel for where we are.

“Hopefully these games can be a dress rehearsal for league play next week.”

Money well spent
Washington will pay $420,000 total to five teams for nonconference games at Alaska Airlines Arena.
DateTeamPayoutScore
Nov. 26Montana$80,000W, 83-79
Nov. 30Long Beach State$90,000W, 92-89 (2OT)
Dec. 14Idaho State$80,000W, 85-66
Dec. 27Mississippi Valley State$80,000--
Dec. 29Hartford$90,000--

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @percyallen



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