Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun caught up with SEC commissioner Mike Slive for a quick, but good little Q&A today. The focus is on Southeastern Conference basketball and much of the discussion centers on the league tournament and its future.
It’s a good read, but here’s the section that stood out to this writer:
Dooley: The SEC Football Championship and baseball tournament have permanent homes. Why does the league like to move the basketball tournament around?
Slive: As we have looked at basketball, we knew we wanted to be in Atlanta on a somewhat regular basis and at the same time our fans enjoy the somewhat smaller basketball venues, so we’ve experimented by moving it around. We’ve been to Florida, we’re in New Orleans this year and we have found Nashville has served us well, so, as you know, we’re projected to come to Bridgestone Arena a little more often. In the future, we’ll settle in to Atlanta, Nashville and another site yet to be determined.
Dooley: Do you see a time when it might stay in one place?
Slive: I don’t know. I wouldn’t say no, but there has been a tradition of moving it around. Many of the venues that we want to go to are also competing for NCAA second and third rounds and regionals, and they are not available on an annual basis.
Dooley: With the new additions to the league, will other cities become part of the rotation?
Slive: Yeah, I think we anticipate we will hear from St. Louis. Whether or not we’ll hear from cities in Texas I don’t know. We still have two open years. We’re going to be in Nashville a lot, but ’17 and ’18 are open.
Assuming the commissioner wasn’t being waterboarded during questioning, it’s possible that his answers should not be taken too literally. Having said that, in Slive’s own words he expects the league tourney to “settle in to Atlanta, Nashville and another site.”
For a while now — most recently last week — we at MrSEC.com have called for the league to create a regular rotation through four host cities: Atlanta, Nashville, New Orleans and Memphis.
Atlanta and Nashville are easy to reach, centrally-located, tourist destinations. Memphis is located within reach of several SEC fanbases and is also a tourist destination, but the city lost out on its bid to land the 2015 tourney. Also, hosting a five-day event would force the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies on a road trip for that bit of time (as is the case with the New Orleans Hornets this week). In addition, there’s no telling how much interest University of Memphis booster and FedEx boss Fred Smith has in allowing 14 SEC schools to strut their stuff in front of West Tennessee recruits right in the FedExForum.
New Orleans — while a bit of a hike for most fans — is still New Orleans. The fact that the SEC’s first first-round game today seems to have fewer fans in attendance than the other league tourneys currently on television doesn’t help the city’s case, but we expect Kentucky fans will invade tonight and tomorrow.
Currently the SEC is scheduled to play its tournament in Nashville in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2019. The tourney will move back to Atlanta for 2014. (We know many would like to see the league bump the NBA’s Hawks for five days in order to play at the Philips Arena, rather than in the cavernous Georgia Dome.)
The tournament is still up for bid in 2017 and 2018. Which brings us to another remark from the commissioner that jumped off the page.
Slive said that he anticipates hearing from St. Louis. There was no mention of Kansas City. Some folks in KC had suggested making a play for an SEC tourney and Missouri AD Mike Alden gave them his blessing. We at MrSEC.com did not. Kansas City is just too far away from most league schools and it’s very hard to imagine area fans paying attention to the SEC tourney while the Big 12 Tournament is going on elsewhere at the same time.
The commish also said he’s not sure if the SEC will hear from any cities in Texas. As was the case in Missouri, there’s been some chatter among Texas A&M backers that Houston or even Dallas might bid to host a tournament. As for Dallas, see: Kansas City. Houston? Well, we’d be okay with the league tossing the Aggies a bone and allowing a single tourney to be played there, but no more.
So where does all this leave the tourney? Apparently in Nashville quite often. That’s fine for yours truly. Broadway is just steps from The Bridgestone Arena and that’s a good thing. (Total sidenote — The downtown Hilton in Nashville ranks for me alongside the Royal Sonesta in New Orleans, the MGM Signature in Las Vegas, the Millenium Bostonian in Beantown, the Harbourview Inn in Charleston, the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle, the Hotel Birger Jarl in Stockholm, the NH Porta Rossa in Florence, and the Pennington Hotel — of course — in England’s Lake District as a personal favorite. Free plugs for all.) After Nashville in 2015 and ’16, here’s guessing Atlanta will add either 2017 or 2018 to its 2014 hosting duties.
That would leave one tourney in either ’17 or ’18 for St. Louis and the Gateway to the West. And all of that sounds rather easy for multiple fanbases. Anyone can get to Atlanta and Nashville. And St. Louis would be a draw for Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Alabama and Ole Miss fans. If you’ve seen the movie, “Up In The Air,” you know St. Louis has an airport for those inclined to wing it to a tourney, as well.
If the SEC created a regular rotation of Altlanta, Nashville, New Orleans and St. Louis — with a bit heavier dose of Atlanta and Nashville — Slive and company would get good marks from those of us here at MrSEC.com.
Something you can be sure the folks in the league offices yearn for everyday.
Sidenote – As noted above, the current four-day tournament will most likely become a five-day event next year when the SEC adds A&M and Mizzou. Here’s how we believe that bracket should look.