SBD/May 9, 2014/Colleges

Big Ten Basketball Tourney's Move East Could Affect Attendance, Alienate Midwest Fans

Moving the Big Ten men's basketball tournament to the East Coast “takes it out of the heart of its historical Midwest territory, and that comes with certain risks,” according to Anthony Schoettle of the INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. Some fans “might be OK with the conference keeping a second house on the East Coast as long as Big Ten officials don’t forget where the collegiate conference was born.” It will be “interesting to see what the move to D.C. -- and possibly other East Coast venues -- does for event attendance.” Schoettle: “I wouldn’t expect people from the East Coast now somehow connected to the Big Ten to attend the tournament." He added, "I wouldn’t expect Midwestern Big Ten fans to flock east in big numbers for the basketball tournament -- or other Big Ten sporting events. I’m not sure there’s much upside in the Big Ten’s push East for Indianapolis.” Competition to host the Big Ten’s biggest sporting events “just got a lot tougher,” and Indianapolis will “have to fight harder to stay in the rotation.” It is only a matter of time before Big Ten officials “look at East Coast venues for the Big Ten Football Championship.” Angry fans “can’t just blame” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany. Most schools are “eager to increase their exposure and gain access to East Coast money” and have “gone along with the plan with few complaints.” Most conference sponsors also “seem to be on board.” But if the plan “alienates the conference’s core fan base, dilutes its brand and/or hurts its biggest championship events, it could backfire horribly” (IBJ.com, 5/7).
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