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The ACC men's basketball tournament will be held in Greensboro through '15, but ACC Commissioner John Swofford said the conference's ADs are "in the process of discussing what we do with the tournament in the future." Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Louisville will join the conference in the next two years, and Swofford said, "With our footprint expanded, there may be some opportunities that we haven’t had previously to play the tournament somewhere in our new footprint that would be beneficial to the league, so we’re having those discussions now. But I think it’s fairly safe to say that the future may represent the past a bit looking forward, because the roots of this tournament are so strong here in North Carolina and much of the success that has been built over the years has been here in North Carolina" (“ACC Tournament,” Raycom Sports, 3/16). Swofford added, "The roots and tradition and history of the tournament are [in Greensboro] and in Charlotte more than anywhere else. I don't see our schools walking away from that aspect. We should look at New York. I think we'd be remiss if we didn't look at New York. What that ultimately means, it's just too early to know. There's some interest there, I don't think there's any question about that, from (Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn) and from our standpoint, too." Meanwhile, Swofford said that league officials have discussed whether a Saturday conclusion to the tournament "would allow the NCAA selection committee to better evaluate ACC teams and their seedings." In Virginia, David Teel noted the ACC next year "grows to 15 teams and a five-day tournament." Switching to a Saturday final would "translate to a Tuesday start, which some (many?) prospective ticket-buyers would find untenable." Swofford said, "There are pros and cons in either direction" (DAILYPRESS.com, 3/16).
APPLE OF THEIR EYE? In Raleigh, Luke DeCock wrote as the ACC expands there is "no avoiding a single, pressing question: If, or perhaps when, will the ACC Tournament be played in New York at Madison Square Garden?" The debate is "the collision of the new and old ACC." Fighting to keep the tournament in Greensboro "may be fighting to preserve something that already has been lost, but that doesn't mean it's not worth the fight." Former Wake Forest coach Dave Odom said, "As long as it stays in Greensboro, or in proximity to Greensboro, this tournament will live and flourish. ... Every mile that you get from Greensboro, the challenges increase exponentially." DeCock writes, "An ACC tournament in New York wouldn't be an ACC tournament. That doesn't make the ACC tournament better or worse. It just makes it something different, and it's been something different for a while now" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 3/16). SPORTING NEWS' David Steele wrote when the ACC "took its giant scissors to the Big East for a second time, this reality became true: It cuts both ways." Steele: "They cut the heart out of the old Big East. But in doing so, they cut the umbilical cord that tethered the conference to the Tar Heel State." If the league is "going to make a footprint, make a footprint." Put the tournament where the "new invitees live and breathe." This is not the "time to act as if the only rightful place for that footprint is Tobacco Road" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 3/16). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said if the tourney is played in N.Y., “Notre Dame, Syracuse, and BC will sell that place out, either in the Garden or Barclays” (“PTI,” ESPN, 3/15).
GREENSBORO NOT GOING QUIETLY: In North Carolina, Owen Covington reports deadlines for completing Greensboro Coliseum renovations this year and next in time for the ACC basketball tournaments “certainly has the intent of making basketball fans among the first to enjoy more than $15 million in upgrades to the arena.” Though the arena has been the “most frequent host of the tournament, future years will see Greensboro competing against" MSG and Barclays Center. Greensboro Coliseum Managing Dir Matt Brown said, “The whole goal here is to make a first impression on those new (ACC) teams, and the future ones. That was why it was so critical that we completed those first phase projects before the bids (for future ACC tournaments).” Covington notes the ACC tournament staying a “crown jewel” for the Coliseum is “evident in renovations made since last fall and those on tap for a second phase due to start this summer.” The upgrades “appeal to most coliseum visitors, but the ACC was specifically in mind in creating a carpeted VIP Ovations Lounge with bar service on the lower level concourse and the expansion of the ACC Hall of Champions Board Room.” A player and media entrance was “enclosed and upgraded to offer a more welcoming entry to the facility.” An ESPN/Raycom Sports Center in-arena studio platform “was built, along with technology upgrades to assist media covering events.” Four luxury suites were “added to the arena to accommodate the new teams entering the conference next year.” Brown is “already scoping out space for another suite, anticipating future expansion of the conference” (TRIAD BUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/15 issue).
OTHERS WANT IN: In Atlanta, Ken Sugiura noted Atlanta Sports Council Exec Dir Dan Corso "led a contingent of Philips Arena and Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau officials to Greensboro, primarily to reinforce the city's interest in hosting the ACC tournament in the future." The tournaments for '16-21 are "up for bidding and likely will be awarded in April or May." Atlanta's competition "reportedly includes" Charlotte, Greensboro, Tampa and DC. No arena in N.Y. "submitted a bid, but the league has interest in the area" (AJC.com, 3/16).
The attendance figures for this year's Pac-12 men's basketball tournament at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena show the event is "off to a great start in its new home," according to Zack Rosenblatt of Univ. of Arizona student newspaper the DAILY WILDCAT. Over the course of six separate sessions, which included 11 games in four days, there was an average attendance of 10,625, almost 2,000 more than last year, when the tourney was held at Staples Center. The "most attended session on Friday had 13,151 and the championship game saw 11,101 fans." The Oregon-UCLA championship game was the "only game that had less than last year’s," when the Colorado-Arizona final drew 11,197 fans. Staples Center has a "capacity of 19,060, while MGM had one of 13,000 for the tournament." The Pac-12 is "on a three-year deal with MGM Grand, and if this year’s tournament is any indication, it should be here for years to come." Pac-12 CMO Danette Leighton said, “We were incredibly pleased with our first year in Las Vegas. I think it was a great first impression for our new tournament here in Las Vegas. Our fans came and traveled and I think they had a great time" (ARIZONA DAILY WILDCAT, 3/18). Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said, "It's fair to say Year One has exceeded our expectations in many respects. I think there's a lot of potential for this to go beyond three years" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 3/17). Scott added, "This is the kind of atmosphere that we envisioned and hoped for when we thought about moving the tournament from Los Angeles. This was the objective, the kinds of crowds, the dynamic atmosphere that we've witnessed. That was our top priority." In Seattle, Percy Allen noted there are "no plans to extend the conference's deal with the MGM that expires in 2015." However, Scott "expressed interest in moving the tourney to the MGM's proposed 20,000-seat arena in Las Vegas" (SEATTLE TIMES, 3/16).
BIG NUMBERS AROUND THE COUNTRY: The Big Ten tournament drew a total paid attendance of 124,543 over four days at United Center, breaking the league's total attendance record of 109,769 set back in '01. Big Ten Assistant Commissioner Scott Chipman in an e-mail said the league's tournament at the United Center in Chicago this year sold out all six sessions in advance for the first time in tournament history (THE DAILY). Meanwhile, the Kansas-Kansas State Big 12 tournament title game Saturday at the Sprint Center was played before a crowd of 19,256. That "broke the single-session record of 19,160 set during Friday's semifinals." The finals crowd also was a "record for a sporting event at the Sprint Center, breaking the previous record set Friday" (K.C. STAR, 3/17).
SEC ON THE MOVE AGAIN? In St. Louis, Vahe Gregorian noted days after an SEC "contingent made a site visit to Scottrade Center during the Missouri Valley tournament," St. Louis Sports Commission President Frank Viverito was "in Nashville as part of the Sports Commission's bid to land the SEC tourney in 2017 or 2018." St. Louis is "one of three cities the league office has been authorized by conference presidents to negotiate with." Other applicants for a tournament that has "been played in six states through the years are Atlanta, Memphis, New Orleans, Nashville, Orlando and Tampa." Atlanta will host in '14, and Nashville is set for '15, '16 and '19. The decision on '17 and '18 "is expected in the spring." While St. Louis is "on the western edge of the SEC's footprint, it also is an accessible drive for many of the league's members even beyond Mizzou." The SEC tournament schedule "would not conflict with the highly successful" Missouri Valley Conference tournament" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/16).
The new Big East will have "only 10 members in 2013-14 and then will take an approach to future expansion," according to sources cited by Katz & McMurphy of ESPN.com. The 10 members will be the Catholic 7 schools that left the Big East, "plus Butler and Xavier of the Atlantic 10 and Creighton of the Missouri Valley." Sources said that an official announcement that Butler, Xavier and Creighton will be joining will be made this week. Multiple coaches from the new league said that the new Big East "would play an 18-game, true round-robin schedule in 2013-14." The new Big East "will play its tournament at Madison Square Garden and has hired a search firm to find a new commissioner." Sources said that N.Y. is the "favorite to host the league offices" (ESPN.com, 3/16). In Indianapolis, David Woods cited sources as saying that Butler will "withdraw from the Atlantic 10" this week. The goal is to "get a new conference done before the second round of the NCAA Tournament begins on Thursday." Leaving the conference early will cost Butler a $2M exit fee. Joining the A-10 this season has "supplied Butler access to the East for student recruitment and graduates seeking jobs," and next year's move to the Big East offers "all that, plus about eight times the reported $400,000 a year that A-10 schools receive from TV rights" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/16).
BLUER SKIES: In Omaha, Michael Kelly wrote the move for Creighton is "a big step up, and no one believes it will be easy." But the invitation -- and a TV contract "expected to pay each school at least $3 million a year -- was the proverbial offer you couldn’t refuse." The 18,320-seat capacity of CenturyLink Center Omaha, Creighton's home arena, will be the "sixth-largest available to league teams." And Creighton fans "nearly fill it, ranking as high as sixth in the nation this year in average attendance." Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle said, "It’s going to be tremendous for Creighton but also tremendous for Omaha because we will get Omaha’s brand and Creighton’s brand in those big, big markets" (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 3/16).
WHAT'S NEXT? Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said that a "final decision hasn't been made yet on having" East Carolina come to the soon-to-be-renamed conference "for all sports, but it is likely to occur for 2014" when Tulane is a full member. Aresco said that he has "no plans to move the current Big East offices from Providence." He also is "hoping the current staff stays in place." Cincinnati AD Whit Babcock said that "none of the schools will get a lump check from the departing schools but rather over a seven-year period." ESPN.com's Andy Katz noted there are "so many nuances in the money being left behind, from exit fees for some and NCAA tournament units for others." The TV revenue "dropped considerably per school." But Aresco said that was "natural due to the fewer teams." He added that the number "isn't done yet with marketing rights still to be discussed." After "settling on a name, the league can market itself, get a tournament site and start working as one -- for now" (ESPN.com, 3/15).
The Univ. of Maryland's deal to join the Big Ten "includes not only the lucrative annual payouts that all members receive, but also a significant concession obtained by the school -- a subsidy worth tens of millions of dollars from the conference to offset athletic teams' anticipated higher travel costs," according to sources cited by Jeff Barker of the Baltimore SUN. The subsidy "made an already appealing offer of Big Ten membership even more attractive to the school." Sources said that the subsidy is "in the range of $20 million to $30 million." The cost of "sending its teams halfway across the country ... was projected by the school to approximately double its travel budget." Maryland's travel budget for '12-13 is about $3M, while the projected figure for '14-15 -- the school's first year in the Big Ten -- is $6M. The subsidy "underscores how much the Big Ten coveted Maryland and the accompanying Baltimore-Washington television market." It was "not clear when the subsidy is to be received and whether it will be a lump sum or series of payments." Rutgers also has "studied the implications of Big Ten travel and is exploring creative solutions, but apparently not subsidies" (Baltimore SUN, 3/16).