Spring conference meetings are used to set agendas for the fall and winter. For the newly named American Athletic Conference, the site of the men’s and women’s basketball tournament next March was and is a key issue.
While there was no official announcement coming out of the American meetings in Florida which concluded on Wednesday morning, sources familiar with the discussions labeled Memphis and the Mohegan Sun resort in Connecticut as the overwhelming favorites.
There was some sentiment to host the men’s tournament in Philadelphia at the historic Palestra. But support for the building which has served as the epicenter of Philadelphia’s Big Five basketball history waned because of lack of modern standard features such as luxury boxes and other social amenities which are now part of the college basketball culture.
Memphis, one of the expansion teams that will be part of an anchor basketball group of Temple, Cincinnati, and UConn of the American, will provide a modern, state of the art arena, with almost guaranteed sellouts if Memphis is part of the semifinal package. The American will also have the benefit of having defending men’s national champion Louisville for one more season.
Playing the women’s tournament in Connecticut in the sphere of interest for defending women’s national champion UConn also should guarantee sellout crowds throughout the women’s tournament.
The American Conference also is working on a deal in football to create a bowl game, possibly against a Pac-12 team and perhaps in the state of Texas, which will become the western outpost for the American with Tulsa, Houston and SMU all part of what will eventually be a 12-team, two division football league. Pac 12 No. 7 vs. Big East No. 4 in the Cotton Bowl?
The American might be done in terms of suffering losses of any more schools, but the raids may continue internally, with the soon to be officially formed (July, 1) Big East conference still in the planning stages of not only a site for its league offices, including the key role of a commissioner. It needs people to run its operation.
The Big East meetings in West Palm Beach came to a conclusion on Wednesday with no official announcements, but do not be shocked if the American Athletic Conference offices suffers a hit, with Senior Associate Commissioners Joe D’Antonio (compliance and governance) and Paul Brazeau (basketball operations) regarded as prime targets to get offers. Also included in that mix could be associate commissioner John Paquette, who has run the men’s basketball tournament for several years.
Another name that has come up as a possible commissioner candidate has been Metro Athletic Association Commissioner Rich Ensor.
A decision on a commissioner is expected in the next week. Whomever is chosen to run the Big East should work hard on making next spring’s men’s basketball tournament at New York’s Madison Square Garden a financial success–meaning sell out crowds.
Here’s why. Although the Big East is committed to the Garden for the next 12 years, the Garden has an attendance clause which allows it to break the deal. If that happens, the Atlantic Coast Conference, looking for some northern exposure could sweep in for a year. NO ACC consecutive multi-year commitment to MSG is expected, but as a pop-in every few years is a different matter.
Unless the Big East can guarantee the consecutive string of sellouts the Garden has had for the last several years (tickets are sold in blocks, not on an individual basis), there is wiggle room for Garden officials to allow the ACC to make a quick visit.
ACC basketball will add Syracuse and Pittsburgh and Notre Dame from the Big East this season and Louisville next season, which will increase it to 15 schools with Maryland (moving to the Big Ten presumably in 2014) and Louisville joining in 2015. Details on how a a 15-team tournament would work still have not been officially finalized.
College basketball in Massachusetts could get a booster shot start next season if the Massachusetts schools can come to an agreement on a November triple header at the TD Garden involving games between Boston University-Northeastern, Harvard-Holy Cross and Boston College and Massachusetts.
The idea would be to tip-off the season with a joint media day in Boston among the schools as been held the last two years and then an opening Boston Basketball Beanpot version a few days later, with one of the games as part of ESPN’s opening day marathon of games.
Another idea which could also make sense would be to have a four-team New England Holiday Classic on the weekend before Christmas with BU and Northeastern serving as co-hosts with the games played at BU’s Agganis Center.