ANN ARBOR — Michigan has earned every bit of its undefeated start to the season. Some of its opponents have earned a little something as well.
On his radio show last week, head basketball coach John Beilein spoke about “guarantee” or “buy” games, nonconference matchups in which a team is paid a fee to play a road game with no return game scheduled.
“There’s nothing sweeter as a mid-major coach or low-major coach than getting the guaranteed check and a ‘W,'” Beilein said. “We only got a few of them when I was at Canisius and Richmond, but boy that was nice. The AD (athletic director) loves you a lot when you go get the ‘W’ and the check.”
For the last couple of decades of his coaching career, Beilein has been on the other side of guarantee games. Michigan’s next opponent, Binghamton, will receive $95,000 to visit Crisler Center on Saturday in what will be Michigan’s final nonconference game of the season.
The Wolverines have paid five opponents this season. Northwood, a Division II school, was paid $15,000 for an exhibition game. Chattanooga ($97,000), Western Michigan ($90,000), and Air Force ($100,000) were also paid a fee for playing Michigan. The visiting schools each received 75 complimentary tickets to the game as well.
Michigan also had two home games as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament — against Norfolk State and Holy Cross — that required a $125,000 fee to the Hall of Fame, part of which was distributed to the visiting schools.
Michigan’s fee amounts and other specifics of their guaranteed game contracts are comparable to other major college basketball programs.
If the Wolverines beat Binghamton as expected, they will close the nonconference portion of their schedule undefeated.
On his radio show, Beilein brought up the rare guarantee games he’s lost while at Michigan. “Those three games haunt me (before) every guarantee game,” he said.
The first came against Central Michigan in Beilein’s first season in Ann Arbor, on Dec. 15, 2008. The other two came during the 2014-15 campaign, the only season in the past eight that Michigan has not reached the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines lost consecutive games in early December to the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and Eastern Michigan by two and three points, respectively.
“You think about those three,” Beilein said. “You don’t think about the other 70 games you’ve won. That’s the two sides of those things. (Those games are) always a great Super Bowl opportunity (for the opponent).”
Michigan has defeated every “guarantee” opponent this season by at least 19 points except Western Michigan. The Broncos hung with Michigan on Dec. 15, losing 70-62.
Binghamton pulling the double dip — collecting a check and winning the game — would be far more shocking than any of Beilein’s previous guarantee game losses at Michigan. Binghamton, 4-9, is ranked 323 out of 353 Division I schools in the NCAA’s latest NET rankings.
As the Wolverines have done with their similar opponents this season, Michigan hopes to send the Bearcats home with a fat check and a lopsided loss.