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SEC targeting primary site for annual men's basketball tournament

DESTIN, Fla. – Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive said Tuesday that the league’s athletic directors voted unanimously to explore a primary site for the men’s basketball tournament, as opposed to moving it around regularly to different locales. 

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Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive, right, speaks at a press conference. (AP)

Slive said the league’s success in making Atlanta the host of the football title game and Hoover, Ala., the host of the baseball tournament has spurred interest in anchoring the basketball tourney. However, he stopped short of saying the league would award the site permanently, instead using the word “primary.”

The presumptive leader to become the SEC’s primary site is Nashville, which hosted this year’s tournament and is scheduled to host in 2015, ’16 and ’19. The 2014 site has been awarded to Atlanta. The 2017 and ’18 tourney sites have not yet been determined.

Since 2000, the SEC tourney has been in Atlanta seven times, Nashville four times, New Orleans twice and Tampa once. But as crowds have dipped to sizes too small to require use of the Georgia Dome, Atlanta has not been in the rotation as often recently. Meanwhile, Nashville seems to have overtaken it as the league’s basketball site of choice.

It may never be what Madison Square Garden was to the Big East, but Bridgestone Arena has been a popular venue.

When asked if Nashville would be the leader, Slive responded, “It’s a good city.”

Later, Slive said he didn’t want to discourage other cities from showing interest in hosting the tourney. It would be bad for potential bidding to tout one site as the prohibitive favorite at this point.

“Now we have to go out and negotiate for that,” Slive said. “I’m not going to leave money in the room.”

Slive said there also was discussion with basketball coaches about non-conference scheduling, as the league attempts to improve sagging RPI numbers. The SEC has hired former NCAA tournament guru Greg Shaheen to assist in scheduling, and Shaheen is in Destin to meet with the league’s coaches.

Slive also sits on the NCAA basketball competition committee, and said he expects significant discussion during this offseason on officiating issues within the game.

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