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The Pac-12 is hoping that moving its men's basketball conference tournament to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas "will ensure a packed atmosphere instead of the fickle situation at Staples Center in the past," according to Andy Katz of ESPN.com. The Pac-12 has “no excuses if it doesn’t happen at the MGM.” The West Coast Conference has "been able to sell out and rock the Orleans Arena and they're locked into the site for the next three years." If the WCC can produce "a tremendous crowd," then the Pac-12 "should be able to come through with a more than respectable showing later this week in Las Vegas” (ESPN.com, 3/12). In Utah, Mike Sorensen writes Las Vegas this week will be "the mecca of the college basketball world" as the Pac-12, WCC, Mountain West and Western Athletic Conference each holds a basketball tournament in the city. The Pac-12 "jumped on the Vegas train this year after watching dwindling attendance" in L.A. The WCC in '09 began holding its tourney in Las Vegas, and "after selling out the Orleans Arena four of the five years" Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich "couldn't be happier" (DESERET NEWS, 3/12). Zaninovich said of the conference continuing to hold its tourney in Las Vegas, “We’ve been in active negotiations with the Orleans. We would hope to announce something pretty soon. I think as we surveyed the landscape of options for this championship, it became pretty clear to us, that most importantly starting with the student-athletes, but administrators, fans that Las Vegas is a great destination and that this facility, the Orleans Arena and Hotel specifically, is a really good fit for our conference. The building is about the right size, it’s a fairly new building. It sets up well for us. I would anticipate that we would be able to announce something soon about the future” (EXAMINER.com, 3/10).
MOVING THE NEEDLE: In Seattle, Jayda Evans noted Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott “wants to keep” the women's basketball conference tournament in Seattle. Force 10 Sports Marketing, a business arm of the WNBA Storm's ownership group, has “a three-year agreement with the conference to host the event.” Scott said, "With an event like this, its best outcome is if it works in a particular market you can nurture it and build it." Evans noted early attendance numbers and “response from coaches and teams have shown keeping the tournament in Seattle should be no problem.” The tourney last year in L.A. "totaled 7,720 fans overall splitting play at USC's Galen Center and Staples Center, working around the men's tournament games” (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/10).
THINKING BIG: In Illinois, John Radtke noted the Big Ten women's basketball conference tournament this year moved to Sears Centre Arena, and the event saw "favorable reviews” from the conference and the arena. While attendance “clearly was lower than the last several years" at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, it "didn't totally disappoint officials from either the conference or the venue.” The average attendance for the six sessions at the Sears Centre Arena this year was 4,471, with "a high of 5,505 for Saturday's semifinals and a low of 3,200 for the Thursday night session,” while the championship game saw a crowd of 4,739 (DAILYHERALD.com, 3/11).
PICK ME, PICK ME! In Tampa, Greg Auman reported the Univ. of South Florida is “interested in lobbying for Tampa to host the postseason tournament in its new league.” USF Exec Associate AD Bill McGillis on Saturday said, "We want it here in Tampa. We definitely will explore that to the fullest” (TAMPABAY.com, 3/9). Meanwhile, Univ. of Memphis AD Tom Bowen on Friday said that the school “will pursue hosting the 2014 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments for the yet-to-be-named conference that it’s joining on July 1” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 3/9).
The BCS is looking to “resell, rebrand and rename” itself, according to Dennis Dodd of CBSSPORTS.com. Premier Sports Management CMO Mike Goff is “the point man on giving the BCS a new coat of paint, a new image, without all the previous baggage.” Goff said the new name, which will begin with the new playoff system in ’14, will be “simple and direct." Goff: "The words 'college football' just go together." Dodd wrote "The National Championship of College Football" would be appropriate, as "there are indications the name is going to be simple, definitely noncontroversial and without initials that can be easily clipped to 'BS.'" The BCS commissioners reportedly were “impressed by a presentation” from Goff and Premier President Gary Heise on Jan. 8 in Key Biscayne, Fla. Sources said that the commissioners “left with a list of possible names." The playoff name is “one of the seminal items left on the commissioners' agenda,” as the structure and money have “been determined.” Goff said, “We've thought of it as this being the second-biggest sports property there is in the U.S.” Dodd noted Goff while working for Sprint “rebranded NASCAR and established significant partnerships with the PGA Tour, NFL and NCAA” (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/8).
After Arizona State Univ. recently unveiled a “modern version" of the school's costumed "Sparky" mascot, a "growing chorus of students and alumni is demanding the old Sparky back,” according to Anne Ryman of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Two Facebook pages, a “student-generated YouTube video and an online petition have sprung up, calling on ASU to reject the new version of Sparky that was designed in partnership with Walt Disney Co.” The makeover is “part of a new marketing campaign designed to endear Sparky to a younger generation.” The new mascot has “superhero features, including big eyes and bulging muscles, that focus groups said are more kid-friendly.” ASU President Michael Crow “compared the Sparky backlash with a controversy two years ago when ASU introduced its ‘Fear the Fork’ athletic campaign with Nike.” Crow said that the fork campaign “has proved exceedingly popular.” ASU Associate VP/Public Affairs Terri Shafer said that “much of the criticism stems from a misunderstanding that the university is changing the iconic Sparky logo.” She said that the new character “will not replace the logo ... only the costumed mascot.” Ryman notes the “old Sparky" is still "scheduled for appearances until his successor takes his place at the April 13 spring football game” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/11).