They decided bigger was better.
The NCAA announced Thursday it will only accept applications to host Final Fours from 2017 to 2020 from venues that hold 60,000 fans or more. That excludes basketball arenas such as Madison Square Garden, where the sight lines for fans and shooting backdrop for players would have been superior to a domed stadium but the available seating and ticket revenue amassed would have been drastically less.
When it was first reported last September that the NCAA was considering a more intimate environment for the Final Four, Yahoo Sports asked four players with experience playing on college basketball's grandest stage whether they'd prefer arenas or domes. Their answers were split down the middle.
Former Butler center Andrew Smith favored football stadiums because the experience of playing in front of 70,000 fans is something he'll cherish the rest of his life.
"We all play in similar arenas to NBA arenas all the time," Smith said. "The Final Four you get that special feeling being in front of 70,000 people at a huge football stadium. It's a pretty amazing thing to walk out of the tunnel and see 70,000 people or even see 20,000 people there to watch shootaround. I personally would hate to give that up."
Former VCU guard Joey Rodriguez took the opposite stance, noting he'd much rather have played his team's 2011 semifinal against Butler in a NBA-sized arena because the shooting backdrop in Houston was so difficult.
"It was so much easier playing in an arena than it was in that dome," Rodriguez said. "We scored pretty well in the semifinal, but not as well as we did the rest of the tournament. Then you watch the national championship game (between Butler and UConn). Seeing guys shoot as badly as they did in that game, that's evidence to me it needs to be moved because all those guys can shoot the ball."
Final Fours have been held in football stadiums every year since 1996 when Kentucky won its first of two championships in three years at the 19,000-seat Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey. The NCAA was already locked into at least three more years of domes before this decision since the 2014 Men’s Final Four will be played at Cowboys Stadium, followed by Indianapolis in 2015 and Houston in 2016.
If the Final Four has to remain in domes, let's hope the NCAA at least chooses the host cities wisely when it announces the winning bids for 2017-2020 in Nov. 2014. At least one in New Orleans and Indianapolis should be a must. It would be great to see San Antonio get back in the rotation as well.
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