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Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco on Thursday said it is “very unlikely” the new conference of FBS schools would be called "America 12," as has been rumored. Speaking to Yahoo Sports Radio’s Steve Czaban, Aresco said, “We’ll find a name and our guess is we would stay away from numbers because of the way numbers have (changed) over the years.” The search for a new name is happening in a “very systematic, deliberate way,” as the schools are seeking a “buy-in” from the public, presidents and ADs. However, it is “not going to be a long process.” The non-FBS schools officially are set to play under the Big East moniker next season, and Aresco noted the name has more “brand equity … as a basketball name than football.” He said, “It’s a double-edged sword with the name because we would not really be the old Big East, and we would always have comparisons to the old Big East. We want to have a fresh start” (“The Steve Czaban Show,” Yahoo Sports Radio, 3/14). Aresco added, “It’ll be a dynamic name, it’ll reflect who we are. But you’ll have two separate conferences next year. We will have some stability and we will all re-brand and move forward” (“Squawk Box,” CNBC, 3/14).
REALIGNMENT DONE FOR NOW? Aresco said it is “hard to say” whether there could be a period of stability after the spate of conference realignment in recent years. He said, “You could easily see more realignment coming down the road. We just don't know. … Some of it’s going to be, obviously, out of our control. Conferences have gotten larger. Will they now take time to digest, to figure out where they are, what they want to do going forward? You’ve heard talk about 16-team super-conferences. I don't know that that’s, frankly, on the horizon. None of us do. What we’re going to do is concentrate on our conference. We’re going to make sure it's the best conference it can be.” Aresco said money “has been a key factor in realignment.” Aresco: “No one’s going to argue that. None of us are naive. Obviously, some of the other conferences have their own networks, they have major TV deals. Our TV deal isn't going to be quite as big. But we also think it gives us the kind of exposure that’s going to be able to build our brand.” The league agreed to a “shorter-term deal because we think we can grow.” Aresco: “We think we can enhance the financials” (“Squawk Box,” CNBC, 3/14).
A WHOLE NEW WORLD: In N.Y., Jack Styczynski wrote the Big East after this week "will never be the same," but it will "be better." It is a "welcome sight to watch the schools that sold out to football depart a league that was founded on great hoops." The new Big East "dominated by Catholic colleges will lose some terrific rivalries," but the conference is an "alliance that will likely stick together for decades and have you forgetting about the defectors in no time." Plus, it will "once again be a right-sized league, emphasizing quality over quantity" (NYTIMES.com, 3/14). However, the Providence Journal's Bill Reynolds said, "It'll be a good league, but it won't be what it was. The week [Big East Founder Dave] Gavitt died, that was the symbolic end of the Big East right there" (SI, 3/18, issue).
PART OF THE BIGGER PICTURE: In DC, Sally Jenkins writes under the header, "Big East Fracturing Emblematic Of Cracked College Sports Priorities." This is the "scourge that is realignment: The constant shifting of alliances in quest of ever bigger paydays to offset budget shortfalls." Jenkins: "And what comes next? A trans-continental conference with the Big East fiscal refugees forming a frantic alliance with remnants of the Mountain West? U-Conn. commuting to UNLV and Colorado State?" Cincinnati men's basketball coach Mick Cronin said, "The whole thing is tragic. Nobody cares about student-athletes. All anybody cares about is money. ... If people cared about student-athletes, West Virginia wouldn't be in the Big 12 with 10 teams flying 800 miles to their closest home game. That's really conducive to studying. The whole thing is hypocrisy" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/15).
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott moved the conference's men's basketball championship to Las Vegas this year and "downsized to the 13,151-seat Garden Arena in hopes of injecting life into a tournament that had become stale" after holding it in L.A. for 11 seasons, according to Percy Allen of the SEATTLE TIMES. The title game last year "drew an announced crowd of 11,197, the lowest in the history of the tournament." But with the tournament "locked into a three-year deal with MGM and the Garden Arena, optimism is running high." UCLA coach Ben Howland said, "This ticket for the Pac-12 tournament will be one of the hardest tickets to get in three years. I guarantee it. That city and our tournament, it's a perfect marriage." This is the Garden Arena's "first major foray into basketball," and seemingly, things "went off without a hitch Wednesday." Early reports from the Pac-12 state that tickets for some sessions "were sold at 80 percent of capacity" (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/14). In Denver, Tom Kensler notes ticket sales for this year's event "have been brisk" and Thursday's Arizona-Colorado game "was a sellout, at just over 13,000." That is "modest size for a power league, but the atmosphere and decibel figures are amped up with fewer empty seats" (DENVER POST, 3/15). In Portland, Ken Goe writes the atmosphere is "a big step up from the Pac-12's previous postseason home, the cavernous Staples Center, which never seemed to light up unless the Los Angeles schools were knocking heads." Taking the postseason tournament out of L.A. and "onto the strip is another aggressive move that most certainly will increase attendance and help the bottom line" (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/15). CBSSPORTS.com's Dennis Dodd noted the NCAA is "playing four conference tournaments" -- West Coast, WAC, Mountain West and Pac-12 -- in Vegas this week. Howland said, "I think it needs to stay here for the next 100 years" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/14). In Arizona, Patrick Finley notes the arena has "one flaw -- the score of the game is shown only on the scoreboard directly above the players' heads" (ARIZONA DAILY STAR, 3/15).
The SEC on Thursday announced an attendance "of 10,065 for the afternoon games" at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, marking the "third-lowest attendance for a Session II of the SEC tournament," according to Jerry Tipton of the LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER. The "record lows are 10,001 in Birmingham in 1980 and 10,004 in Orlando in 1990" (KENTUCKY.com, 3/14). YAHOO SPORTS' Pat Forde noted when the SEC tournament opened Wednesday night with a doubleheader, the attendance "was 7,879 -- the smallest single-session crowd in SEC tourney history." That is "mostly due to the fact that all four teams playing (Mississippi State, South Carolina, Auburn and Texas A&M) were terrible." However, that also is the "price of expansion -- if you go up to 14 teams, you create an extra round of games between flotsam and jetsam." Even with Tennessee playing "a must-win game in its home state Thursday afternoon, the session drew just 10,065 -- what would be an unforgivably small crowd at any spring football game." And a "good portion of that Thursday crowd was wearing Kentucky blue" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/14). ESPN.com's Kristi Dosh wrote the absence of Kentucky from the top 25 may be "most damaging for the SEC." StubHub said that 47% of "all sales to SEC tournament games last year were to fans living in the state of Kentucky." This year, that number is "down to" 39% (ESPN.com, 3/14).
TWO PEAS IN A POD: SI.com's Pete Thamel wrote if ACC Commissioner John Swofford is "smart," he will "call executives at Madison Square Garden soon and broker a 10-year continuous deal" for the tournament. The ACC is "committed to Greensboro through 2015, but if you can stay in the Ritz Carlton why settle for a Super 8?" While it is expected that the "new" Big East will "pick up the old Big East's Garden lease, MSG executives would be foolish to turn away a superior product." MSG and the ACC would be the "perfect marriage of a premiere league and the best postseason hoops venue, a union of power, media muscle and geography." And it would be "more important symbolically, as the Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has visions of moving his conference's tournament" to N.Y. A "proactive move for the ACC could also be a critical defensive move to keep the Big Ten out of Manhattan." All the ACC is "doing by continually moving its tournament is watering down its brand" (SI.com, 3/14). In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs writes of moving the ACC Tournament to MSG, "Would the fans along Tobacco Road be happy? No. But look at the construction of the new ACC and it's easy to see with all those old Big East schools in the mix, not to mention all the Dukies who live in the New York metro, that MSG would be a great coup and long-term success story" (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/15).
HELP ME HELP YOU: In Chicago, Teddy Greenstein wrote the Big Ten tournament title game "is an afterthought." It has "no influence on NCAA tournament seeding, and those watching at home are screaming at the TV: 'Just give us the brackets!'" Delany said, "I don't feel that (it lacks importance). What the data would show is that as people get ready for Selection Sunday, it's a different kind of program. ... But leading into the show, we view it as a good thing, and I think CBS views it as a good thing." He added, "We give them a great lead-in to the show, and it's good for us. Most (leagues) stop playing a couple hours earlier or the previous night. So with very little competition, that allows us to aggregate the biggest audience. It gives the championship game a profile" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/14).
A SLOW BUILDUP: In N.Y., Scott Cacciola writes the Atlantic 10 tournament games at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday were "played before modest crowds," though Commissioner Bernadette McGlade said that she had "anticipated solid attendance this weekend." McGlade said of the tournament's 14 previous sites along the Eastern Seaboard, "We've never had a sold-out event, so that doesn't happen overnight." The A-10 has a five-year deal with Barclays Center, and the "belief among conference officials is that the arena will generate visibility" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/15).
REACHING A NEW SUMMIT: In South Dakota, James Cimburek noted the Summit League Tournament "has had a great run in Sioux Falls." The '13 event saw "records set for men's (23,710), women's (21,158) and total (44,868) attendance, as well as for the women's championship (6,153)." Over 2,500 all-session tickets already have "been sold for the 2014 championships, the final one that will be held at Sioux Falls Arena." In '15, the championships move "next door to the Denny Sanford Premier Center, a facility that holds nearly twice as many fans for basketball" at 12,000 (Yankton PRESS & DAKOTAN, 3/14).
PUTTING THE LADIES FIRST: In Texas, Will Parchman noted the Big 12 this year chose to "separate its men's and women's basketball tournament sites and game weekends." The women moved to the American Airlines Center in Dallas this year and attendance figures "ballooned" from '12 to '13. Baylor last year in three games at the tournament in K.C. "averaged 5,061 fans." This year, without the men "hogging the city and game-time spotlight, the results were considerably better." Baylor at its three games this year "averaged 7,734 fans," including a "whopping 8,662 during the final against Iowa State." Giving the women's tournament "its own weekend and its own showcase clearly helped up attendance and interest" (WACO TRIBUNE-HERALD, 3/14).