ARLINGTON, Tex. — With 79,444 college basketball fans crammed into AT&T Stadium for Saturday night's Final Four — many of them forced to watch the stadium's 150-foot long video boards to keep up with the game — NCAA president Mark Emmert was asked on Sunday if the organization will ever consider returning its biggest event to a regular basketball venue.
"We all love the confines of a nice, tight arena," he said, though no men's Final Four has been held in a traditional arena since Kentucky won the 1996 title inside the Meadowlands.
"It's a great venue for basketball. I know there's some critique about playing in a big venue like this or San Antonio or somewhere else. But the reality is, you can get 80,000 people in to watch a game and that's pretty exciting. There may be some people that would like to be in a tighter arena, but not the 60,000 that wouldn't be there."
The foreseeable future looks unchanged. Indianapolis and its Lucas Oil Stadium -- where the NFL's Colts play -- will host the 2015 tourney. The Final Four shifts to Houston and its cavernous Reliant Stadium, which produced one of the more difficult NCAA semifinals and final to watch in recent memory in 2011, all four schools shooting below 40 percent from the floor, reportedly because of a poor shooting backdrop.
After 2016, the bid process is not yet complete. Eight cities -- Atlanta, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, New Orleans, North Texas, Phoenix-Glendale, San Antonio and St. Louis -- are competing for tournaments 2017 through 2020. Should Phoenix-Glendale receive one, it would be the first Final Four since 1995 (Seattle) held west of the Rockies.
Under its current requirements, host cities are supposed to have a stadium that holds at least 60,000 and can provide at least 10,000 hotel rooms within reasonable proximity to the arena.
"This is a superb stadium," said Emmert of AT&T Stadium, which Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones built at a cost of $1.3 billion. "There's probably no better stadium in the country than this one."
Or at least no better video board.
No more mowing
Because he once rose before sunrise to help his father with the family's landscaping service, someone asked UConn coach Kevin Ollie -- who was born in Dallas -- if he still mows his own yard.
"No, I don't mow my own yard," he said. "Pops used to get me up at 4 a.m., and he didn't pay me a lot. But it taught me how to work hard, getting up at 4 a.m., trying to beat the heat. He's still got that landscaping business. He really established that work ethic in me."
The comparison game
Kentucky fans might understandably consider UConn's three losses to Louisville -- which UK beat twice -- as a good sign for the Wildcats. But Huskies fans can also smile over the fact that UConn twice beat a Florida team that was 3-0 against Big Blue.
Beyond that, not only is Connecticut 3-1 against Kentucky all-time, the Huskies knocked off the Cats in the 2011 Final Four in Houston, Tex., on their way to their third national championship.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...