The Wichita Eagle’s Paul Suellentrop spoke with Wichita State athletic director Darron Boatright following the American Athletic Conference leadership meetings in Florida, revealing a few interesting tidbits.
Boatright said the conference is considering hosting the men’s basketball tournament closer to the Shockers’ home base.
“Wichita State (AD) Darron Boatright said the American is considering awarding the tournament to a Midwest site in the future. Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena emerged as a topic of informal talks last week at conference meetings in Florida. Tulsa’s BOK Center was also mentioned as a possible home.
‘There was very positive discussion about giving it a test run for a year or two where it’s more accessible for institutions to drive,’ Boatright said. ‘There was nothing voted on, nothing specific. Oklahoma City was discussed directly. Tulsa came up a time or two.’
Five schools are within 500 miles of Oklahoma City or Tulsa — Wichita State, Tulsa, SMU, Memphis, and Houston.”
Tulsa emerged as a rumored candidate back in March while Oklahoma City is a new one in the fold.
Please allow the toddler below to express my unfiltered feelings about these possibilities.
Tulsa and Oklahoma City are both great options for future iterations of the AAC men’s basketball tournament, as long as the goal is for attendance to be even lower than the paltry numbers managed across the first three years.
Per LinkedIn, there are just over 2,300 alumni from those five “drive-able” schools living in Oklahoma City, the larger of the two cities mentioned here specifically. For comparison, there are over 35,000 UConn alumni in the Hartford area, where the conference tournament has been hosted twice.
Now, Hartford certainly isn’t ideal either, but Oklahoma City or Tulsa would be worse.
Additionally, I’d like to quickly run through the relevant accomplishments of the four basketball teams which Boatright mentioned besides WSU:
There aren’t any. So why kowtow to these four fanbases and a basketball-only newbie? Even if you do want to do that, why not find a better city?
Kansas City has great food (I don’t care about your regional BBQ takes, slowly smoked meat is good everywhere), double the alumni presence than OKC for those five schools, and a strong sports culture. It would be a much better option, and a much closer one if we’re trying to roll out a welcome mat for the Shockers.
Chicago would probably be the best option in the Midwest. It’s an easily accessible hub for flights and has a great basketball history. It’s also a top-5 US city, which means a lot to do before, during, and after games.
Branching out of the Midwest, The UConn Blog has long been a proponent of New Orleans as a tournament host, for a host of reasons but primarily to make it a true destination event.
Temple hosting in Philadelphia would be a nice option as well, with its rich basketball history and, again, presence in a major city where there is stuff to do when your team isn’t playing.
Wouldn’t it be cool to have the quarterfinal games, typically played in front of cavernous, quarter-filled arenas, at the Palestra before doing the rest at the Wells Fargo Center? Offering local hoops fans some of that old school feel could go a long way towards driving local interest in a sports crazy city.
Washington DC could be a cool venue for the American Athletic Conference. It’s a city without any major college hoops affiliations (shade absolutely intended, Georgetown and Maryland) and successfully hosted the 2017 Big Ten Tournament at the Verizon Center.
Charlotte, Nashville, Atlanta, and Indianapolis (don’t knock it ‘til you try it), are all somewhat central, accessible, fun options. Tulsa and Oklahoma City are not.
While everyone can agree attendance for the AAC men’s basketball tournament has been disappointing, it’s clear there are better solutions out there than what has been done and what is being rumored. Hopefully the conference leadership comes to its senses soon regarding what should be a major event for its member schools and fans.