The Big 12 is considering bringing its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments back together in the same city.
Discussion of future tournament sites will be on the agenda when the league’s annual spring meetings begin Wednesday in Irving, Texas. The events have been held in separate cities for the ast two seasons after operating in the same city for the first 16 years.
But some league officials wonder if reconnecting the events will benefit the women’s tournament, which averaged 4,877 per session in Oklahoma City in March.
“The senior women’s administrators and coaches are favorably inclined to the same site on the same weekend,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “But the direction we go is unknown at this point.”
And unlikely to be determined this week, Bowlsby said.
A same city/same site approach would be new. Before the tournaments split in 2013, they were played in the same city and during the same week but at different sites.
In Kansas City, that meant staging the men at Sprint Center or Kemper Arena with the women at Municipal Auditorium.
No schedules would change until 2017. The events are set for the next two years with the men at Sprint Center and the women in Dallas in 2015 and Oklahoma City in 2016.
“Same sight, same time? Or different sites? Different times? We’ll continue to ask ourselves these questions,” Bowlsby said.
The men’s tournament has been an overwhelming success in Kansas City. Iowa State’s victory over Baylor in last year’s title game drew 19,108, and the sessions averaged 18,999.
The idea is the women’s event could benefit from the enthusiasm of the men’s tournament while not inconveniencing teams’ fans.
Television windows could be a factor in the decision, Bowlsby said. The goal is to have all games from both events with maximum national exposure, and scheduling both tournaments for the week in same building — a total of 18 games — could affect that opportunity.
Another issue for Kansas City: The Missouri Valley is accepting bids for its popular men’s tournament and invited Kansas City, Chicago, Indianapolis and Las Vegas as well as its home for the last 24 years —St. Louis — to do so. The first year it becomes available is 2016, and that event is typically played a week before the Big 12 tournament.
Big 12 sites beyond 2016 will be part of the discussion at the Big 12 meetings, and Kansas City will put its history of success against Dallas, Oklahoma City and others that show interest in the event.
“The satisfaction level is very high with Kansas City, there’s no question about that,” Bowlsby said. “The question athletic directors must answer is if they’re satisfied playing in the backyard of Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State every year.
“Having said that, I’ve heard nobody advocating a move for issues of fairness. But this is all part of the process.”
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