Michigan State and North Carolina will close out the 2009 NCAA tournament with the title game in Detroit tonight. But the question remains, will South Florida host a portion of the tournament again?
Despite crowds that barely broke 10,000 at 20,000-seat AmericanAirlines Arena for the March 20 and 22 first and second round games last month, South Florida officials hope to bring men’s college basketball tournament games back. Bid specifications for the first and second rounds and regionals for 2011, 2012 and 2013 are to go out shortly, NCAA officials say.
“Most certainly,” Pete Garcia, athletic director at host school FIU, said of bidding again, “because it’s not just good only for FIU, but it’s good for the entire basketball community in South Florida.”
But it wasn’t lost on the hosts that the colleges assigned to AmericanAirlines Arena held scant attraction for South Floridians, who aren’t hugely supportive of college basketball to begin with.
“You worry about the things you control, what we couldn’t control was the matchups,” Garcia said. “We did the best with the teams that got awarded to us, it’s nobody’s fault. Team like Florida didn’t get to the NCAA tournament.”
Mike Sophia, executive director of the Miami-Dade Sports Commission, said he was disappointed with ticket sales, but understood the matchups weren’t a draw.
“This year, we had first and second round and you wound up with the eight teams that may or may not sort of fit,” Sophia said. “I think Syracuse was an interesting team for us, a Big East team for us, but the rest of the group, was certainly strange.”
South Florida also lost out on the destination factor with two teams from warm weather Arizona.
“I just think now, we’ve got to look at it and I think they [the NCAA] should look at trying to make sure all the sites have some sort of geographical or national attractiveness to the teams that are playing at each site,” Sophia said.
As a result, Sophia said the host group will look at whether to apply for first and second round games (like those it hosted last month) or a regional (Sweet 16 and Elite 8), or both.
Jeanne Boyd, NCAA director of Division I Men’s Basketball, praised the hosting of the games at AmericanAirlines Arena and said a host of factors are considered for hosting in the future.
“They’ve done a very good job, the building has been very responsive,” she said.
Boyd said a thorough evaluation of everything from the experience at the arena to hotels will be taken into consideration, as well feedback from the hosts, the schools and others.
Meanwhile, the World Baseball Classic second round games at Dolphin Stadium last month didn’t draw as well as hosts had hoped – in part because the Netherlands were among the four teams, rather than the Dominican Republic. But officials were pleased with the turnout and are planning to bid for games in the next WBC in 2013, perhaps even the Finals. The Marlins hope to be hosting games in a new ballpark in Little Havana, scheduled to open in 2012.