It isn't the Sugar Bowl or the Final Four, but Tim Morgan had to start somewhere.
The new president of the Chattanooga Sports & Events Committee recently landed his first college event by obtaining the Gulf South Conference baseball tournament. The eight-team, double-elimination event will be held May 2-6 at AT&T Field, and Chattanooga State is partnering by allowing the NCAA Division II participants to use its facilities.
"This is a move in the right direction, and it's what I consider a small little win for our community." Morgan said. "As soon as UTC solidifies its plans in securing the chancellor and putting the final touches on hiring an athletic director, we'll have more of an understanding as to what type of events they want to get involved in. We will definitely support them moving forward, whether it's actively pursuing basketball tournaments again or actively pursuing any other sports in the numerous sports that UTC competes in.
"Once we determine it's a good tournament to host, we can push forward as a team and put a package together."
Chattanooga once was synonymous with notable college events. McKenzie Arena hosted seven Southeastern Conference women's basketball tournaments from 1993 to 2000, and Finley Stadium housed 13 consecutive Football Championship Subdivision title games, with the last of those in 2009.
According to Sports Committee records, the FCS games provided a combined $22.97 million in economic impact to the city and the SEC tournaments produced $10.91 million.
The NCAA has held portions of three women's basketball tournaments at McKenzie, and the Southern Conference has staged its men's and women's basketball tournaments three times there as well. There has not been a prominent college event acquired by the Sports Committee since the 2011 SoCon tournament.
Morgan said the initial holding pattern with UTC is not cause for frustration.
"It's excited anticipation, because I know UTC has a history of actively wanting to pursue NCAA events," he said. "I don't know who will be brought in as athletic director, but I would like to think they would stay true to what their history has shown. I think I will be in a better position to be an asset to the cause when they do make that decision and do start to actively pursue NCAA events again.
"As I continue to get a stronger understanding of who the players are in the community, I can be more of an asset when UTC is ready to rock."
Morgan estimates a minimum economic impact of $85,000 for the Gulf South tournament, which was held in Rome, Ga., last year after a run in Millington, Tenn. Whether future tournaments can be held at AT&T Field will be dependent on Southern League scheduling.
"I would like to stay here for a few years and really build this thing," Gulf South commissioner Nate Salant said. "When fans see the quality of baseball with reasonable ticket prices, I think they will get excited and really get behind it."
Lee University will be joining the Gulf South this summer but will not be eligible immediately for league championship events.