The NCAA men's Final Four attendance record "seems likely to fall" this weekend at AT&T Stadium, but because of the venue's capacity, ticket demand "is relatively cheap," according to Matt Porter of the PALM BEACH POST. The record attendance for a college basketball game is 78,129, set in '03 for a regular-season Kentucky-Michigan State game at Ford Field. But Cowboys Senior Dir of Corporate Communications & Strategic Event Planning Brett Daniels said there is a "distinct possibility" that figure is topped. The stadium "drew the all-time record of 108,713" for the '10 NBA All-Star Game. The building has "more than enough room -- 180,000 square feet of standing-room space -- to place students and walk-ups." Daniels said, "We don't have to turn away fans" (PALM BEACH POST, 4/4). In Dallas, Gary Jacobson notes the NCAA "doesn't break out ticket revenue from just the Final Four," but he estimates that the games will generate roughly $20M (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/4). USA TODAY's Paul Myerberg writes the Final Four is "one of Texan proportions: bustling, brawny, bursting at the seams and, above all else, bigger than ever before." If this year "marks an all-time high across three key areas -- attention, quality and reach -- the NCAA tournament has made increasing efforts to broaden its scope, adding at-large teams in an effort to create greater parity and holding the Final Four at more spacious venues, eschewing the smaller, cozier stadiums of the recent past" (USA TODAY, 4/4).
BIGGER IN TEXAS: In West Palm Beach, Dave George noted there is "all kinds of free fun planned for downtown Dallas," along with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. This is "typical Texas outsizing, and it is tough to top when other cities bid for the big events, like the new College Football Playoff title game" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 4/3). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel writes the Final Four "may be a platform for amateur student-athletes, but this event is remarkably professional." The "beneficiary is the fan," as "these people do know how to throw a party" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/4). In Dallas, Barry Horn writes North Texas is "not a college basketball village," and it is "not home to a traditional national power or a even a team that has consistently flirted with the Top 25." Ratings for college games are "close to the bottom of the pack among American television markets," and attendance at games has "traditionally been low." Horn: "What we are experiencing now is a four-day oasis, courtesy of Jerry Jones and his massive AT&T Stadium" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/4).
MOVING THE MASSES: In Ft. Worth, Gordon Dickson writes about the area's transportation challenges this weekend and notes increased efforts around mass transit "comes as North Texas prepares for one of its most festive and sports-intensive weeks ever." Besides the Final Four games and Sprint Cup Race, TMS will host the Nationwide Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 on Friday. Area officials are "launching a 511 service that residents can call for frequently updated recordings" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/4).
MEETING OF THE MINDS: In Dallas, Cheryl Hall notes Learfield Sports and IMG College are the "collegial co-hosts of a favorite social event of the national championship." About 1,000 of the "who’s who in the NCAA basketball world are expected to show up for a Texas-sized hoedown" on Friday night at Gilley’s bar in Dallas. It will be a "mini-convention of NCAA officials, athletic directors, coaches, conference commissioners, clients, corporate partners, professional players and anyone else who nabbed an invite." Learfield President & CEO Greg Brown said, "For so many people, it’s the one place during the weekend where they can see everybody from the industry." Hall notes this is the "fourth time Learfield and IMG have teamed up" after the event "started 14 years ago" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/4).
BOOZE IT & LOSE IT: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Rachel Bachman notes the NCAA "doesn't sell alcohol to the general public at its championships," and is "so serious about the ban that host sites are even required to cover up any existing ads for alcoholic drinks." The rule "endures even as more colleges and universities, such as Texas, have begun selling beer at athletic events." While fans in suites and "other restricted areas are exceptions to the policy, most people at the Final Four will have to sweat it out all evening" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/4).
TAKING THE LEAD? On the eve of the Final Four, a few columnists look at the state of the NCAA under President Mark Emmert. USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes the NCAA "needs a strong leader now more than ever, someone with a vision and a backbone." Armour: "So far, President Mark Emmert hasn't shown any signs of having either." Had Emmert "held his state of the union Thursday, as has been the norm for years, he would have been front and center on a day when little else was going on." He would have "had the chance to change the conversation, or at least mount a vigorous defense of his organization." Instead, he is "not speaking until Sunday morning, a time slot that guarantees no one will hear a word." The move was "made to accommodate schedules," with three members of the NCAA's BOD joining Emmert. Rather than "being proactive and taking the lead, Emmert and the NCAA seem content to let others dictate their fate" (USA TODAY, 4/4). CBSSPORTS.com's Dennis Dodd wrote under the header, "The NCAA Is Under Fire On Multiple Fronts -- Is Anyone In Charge?" There are "lawyers descending on the NCAA like it was Big Tobacco," and the "state of college athletics and whatever comes next begs this main question: Who's in charge?" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/3).