Past Tournament Champions in Asheville
1984 -- Marshall
1985 -- Marshall
1986 -- Davidson
1987 -- Marshall
1988 -- UTC
1989 -- ETSU
1990 -- ETSU
1991 -- ETSU
1992 -- ETSU
1994 -- UTC
1995 -- UTC
ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Geoff Cabe may need to check the voting laws of Asheville.
Cabe, the senior associate commissioner of the Southern Conference, has spent so many days in Asheville that, "I could claim enough days of residence to vote in their next election," he joked.
Cabe has been the point-man from the SoCon working with officials from Asheville in advance of the SoCon basketball tournament which begins March 2 in the U.S. Cellular Center, which long-time SoCon fans know as the Asheville Civic Center.
"It's 70 miles each way between [SoCon headquarters in Spartanburg, S.C.] and arena," Cabe said. "I feel like I'm on auto-pilot of that stretch of road."
Cabe has visited the arena nine days in the last two months and has plans to spend four more there before the basketball begins. He's been there to meet with city leaders, tournament organizers and architects to ensure that a renovation of the arena -- billed at between 7 and 8 million dollars -- will meet the needs of the conference.
"The building is close to ready," Cabe proclaimed Wednesday. "Between now and the end of the month, there is a lot of last-minute stuff. I think that people who remember the old building are going to like what they'll see.
'We've transformed that place into a venue that fits us."
The SoCon tournament resided in Asheville from 1984 to 1995. It's back on a three-year contact with either the city or the conference having an option to back out after this year if it doesn't work out.
"My favorite memory is simple -- cutting down those nets," said University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach John Shulman, who was an assistant at ETSU when the Bucs won two titles there. "Lee Morrow, our strength coach, gave me and [Jeff] Lebo a cigar at the end of those championship games.
"I love it over there."
And it seems that Asheville has embraced the event again. Jody Beck swapped out letters on the Center marquee announcing the tournament. The Biltmore estate has discounted tickets for SoCon tournament fans.
And Ben VanCamp, executive director of the Asheville-Buncome Regional Sports Commission, gave a presentation before the city council.
"The easy part has been rallying community support because it is almost shocking in how welcoming Asheville has been," said VanCamp, while at Malaprop's Bookstore & Cafe -- two blocks from the Center -- which has a chalk-board menu including a latte topped with cinnamon and cayenne pepper.
"Our community has changed significantly since the tournament was last here," VanCamp said. "I think basketball fans will be pleasantly surprised at the community itself, and on the arena side, I think they will all enjoy it too."