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Volume 23 No. 28
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Fox takes over Vegas hoops tourneys

Fox Sports is getting into the event management business, taking control of two early season basketball tournaments in Las Vegas. Fox Sports will run everything from ticket sales and sponsorships to team selection and TV production for the Las Vegas Invitational and the Las Vegas Classic.

“The story is not that we’re just televising a college basketball tournament,” said Fox Sports vice president Dan Shell. “That happens everywhere. We are now owning the event.”

Illinois players celebrate winning last year’s Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
The moves follow a business model popularized by ESPN, which owns 13 college football games and nine college basketball events.

These early season tournaments, also known as multi-team events within the NCAA, began to take off in 2006. That’s when an NCAA rule change loosened restrictions and enabled teams to play as many as three games in these multi-team events, but they count only as one game toward the regular-season maximum of 27 games.

Last season saw more than 40

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multi-team events, ranging from the NIT Season Tip-Off before Thanksgiving to the Sun Bowl Tournament around Christmas.

“We’d like to do more of this,” Shell said. “It’s a competitive space in terms of getting the events going. But our business model already has been successful.”

That business model was helped by Continental Tire, which signed on as title sponsor for both tournaments. Shell says that Continental Tire’s deal guarantees that the sponsor will be involved with selecting teams, which is the norm in these types of deals.

Fox, which purchased the tournaments from Las Vegas Tournaments Inc. earlier this year, hired one of Las Vegas Tournaments’ owners, Chris Spencer, to stay on as a consultant and manage the events. Spencer does not have a staff, but Fox has pledged to hire temporary support staff as needed.

Fox Sports 1 carried games from the Las Vegas Invitational and the Las Vegas Classic last year, with Fox handling the sponsorship sales.

“Because of our ownership of the event, it gives us the ability to deliver pretty good college basketball content to Fox Sports 1 and potentially Fox Sports 2 without paying for it and, hopefully, making a little bit of money on it,” Shell said.

Fox will distribute the tickets through the venue and the schools.

The tournaments’ format has two big schools play two home games before going to Las Vegas to play each other, and two small schools playing two road games before going to Vegas to play each other.

Everybody plays four games.

The 2015 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational will be held Nov. 27-28 and has signed California, West Virginia, San Diego State and Richmond. The 2015 Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic will be held Dec. 22-23 and has signed SMU, Colorado, Penn State and Kent State.

Both tournaments will be held in the Orleans Arena.

Arizona and Butler have committed to the 2016 Las Vegas Invitational. The University of Southern California is committed to the Las Vegas Classic in 2016.