One aspect of taking over as head coach that may be overlooked is scheduling. Many times the new head coach enters a situation in which the slate may not be set up to their liking.
Such is the case for first-year Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray, whose first season in Starkville will include a non-conference schedule that has just five home games.
For a team that plays in a high-major conference like the SEC, that’s something that rarely happens (if ever).
The Bulldogs will be the opponent for Troy as the Trojans open their new 6,000-seat arena, and Mississippi State fans shouldn’t get used to their team opening the season away from “The Hump”.
“If I had my say so, I would’ve wanted to play a home game first and then go play a road game, but it was already there and we couldn’t do anything about it,” Ray said.
Included in the non-conference slate this season are trips to the Maui Invitational and to Providence as part of the SEC/Big East Challenge, and for a team that lost so much this is a rough way in which to begin a new era.
A few games like those (as well as their game at Loyola-Chicago to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their landmark NCAA tournament meeting) isn’t a major problem for a program.
But that would be in the midst of a “regular” schedule. Just five home games for a major-conference program, especially one with as much turnover as Mississippi State, and there’s added risk.
And with the SEC moving to an 18-game schedule thanks to the arrival of Missouri and Texas A&M, struggles in the non-conference portion of the slate can put a team behind the proverbial 8-ball before league play even begins.
“If you are in a BCS conference there is no such thing as a favorable schedule,” Ray said. “The big positive is we play all of our SEC games on Wednesday and Saturday, so it sets our players up for a great routine during the season, very similar to a football schedule.”
Feel free to soak in this year’s schedule if you’re a Mississippi State fan, because there’s a strong likelihood that you won’t be seeing another like it while Rick Ray’s in charge.