HPU unanimous choice as host of Big South basketball tournament

Aug. 29—HIGH POINT — The countdown is on for High Point University as the choice to host the combined Big South Conference's men's and women's basketball tournaments in the Qubein Center for the upcoming season.

"We have 190 days to the first tip," Big South commissioner Sherika A. Montgomery said during a press conference in the Qubein Center, referring to the event that will run March 6-10 and will be open to all of the conference's nine teams. "We are counting."

HPU was unanimously selected by the nine schools' chief executive officers from among four of the leagues schools who submitted bids after the league was told by the operators of Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte that the tournament could not return there because of a scheduling conflict. The bidding process covers just the 2024 tournament.

"High Point showed how much it mattered, not only from the university standpoint but from the city standpoint," Montgomery said. "The financial guarantees, the experience they are going to provide the student-athletes and the support the community is going to provide are something I feel the school CEOs thought were very important."

The bidding selection process took about 3 1/2 months instead of the normal 6-9 months, according to Montgomery. HPU's bid document was 30 pages according to the school's athletics director, Dan Hauser.

The tournament is expected to have an economic impact of $7,171,454 according to Visit High Point and the championship games of last March's tournament were viewed by 170,000 households on two of ESPN's linear channels. The remainder of the games will be streamed on ESPN+. The championship game will receive automatic bids to the NCAA tournament.

In the audience were a number of city dignitaries headed by mayor Jay Wagner.

"For our economic impact, it's enormous — 20,000 people will come to this city for this conference championship that lasts 5 days," HPU president Nido Qubein said. "The teams, the bands, the cheerleaders will occupy nearly 600 rooms alone. . .However, it is practically impossible to quantify the impact of a championship (tournament) in a place like High Point. It is a badge of honor and an occasion for all High Pointers to be proud of, to acknowledge that we have built a facility that others have noticed."

Winthrop, UNC Asheville and Longwood were the other bid submitters.

The three-year-old state-of-the-art Qubein Center's status as the best arena in the conference, the availability of hotel rooms in the Triad, HPU having hosted championships in a number of sports and the central location in the conference's footprint played a role in HPU's selection, according to Montgomery.

Hauser made the school's presentation to the league's CEOs while Qubein led the presentation in front of the other school CEOs.

As part of the bid, HPU had to guarantee nine hotels with 65 rooms each for players and other members of the traveling party from each school, not counting fans, Hauser said. The commissioner and the eight visiting CEOs will stay in the Jana and Ken Kahn Hotel adjacent to the arena. Each school will have the opportunity to occupy one of the arena's nine suites.

The bid included something that wasn't in the others according to Hauser — a suite where players in the semifinals will be able to pick out gifts, similar to what is done at football bowl games. The tournament will again host an Education Day that will include local school students attending a function in the conference center and then one of the tournament's games.

And as far the time countdown: Montgomery said the league and school will start having meetings twice a week as part of the planning process.

"It's 190 days but a lot of the heavy lifting has been done," Hauser said. "It's a matter of getting down to the final details and getting those execution elements off the ground and running. We want to identify hosts for each of the visiting schools, someone in the community that will welcome a team to town, answer questions or do troubleshooting for them.

"Identifying 16 team hosts is just one example of what we have to do, not to mention hiring the stat crew and ushers and police officers and shuttle drivers and all those logistics. That's the exciting part. We embrace that work. That's the exciting part. If we didn't embrace it, we would have never bid."