Joe Santoro: WAC basketball tourney in Vegas? It makes no sense
June 26, 2009
There should be no doubt now that coaches completely run college basketball. How else can you explain the Western Athletic Conference moving its menand#8217;s and womenand#8217;s basketball postseason tournaments to a neutral site in Las Vegas starting in March 2010? The coaches have complained for years about playing the tournament on someone elseand#8217;s home floor. Those guys and gals, after all, already have it so tough. They get only six and seven figures to work a grueling six months a year. They only get three assistants to help them coach a dozen players. In the spring they sometimes have to grind through a strenuous European trip playing life-and-death games against hungry players unspoiled by years of learning the game. They then have to go through the stressful and humiliating process of being wined and dined by other institutions every two years just to force their current employer to give them a measly 50- to 100-percent raise. To force them to continue to play a league tournament on someone elseand#8217;s home floor, well, that would have been too much.
What, exactly, is the benefit of playing the WAC basketball tournaments in Las Vegas? Why would the WAC want to promote a city and#8212; a city that treated the WAC like week-old pizza a few years ago and#8212; in the Mountain West Conference? Why force all of your students and fans and#8212; many of whom can barely afford to pay their ridiculous tuition fees these days and#8212; to somehow afford a four- or five-day trip to Las Vegas? Media coverage will suffer because there is no hometown paper or hometown TV stations. Hey, you know what they say about things that happen in Vegas. Letand#8217;s also not forget that the tournament will shrink from all nine teams to just eight. College is all about reducing opportunities, right? Also, why play a tournament in the same city and at the same time as the hometown Mountain West? The WAC tournament title game, therefore, will have about 2,500 fans cheering for one team, 2,500 cheering for the other team and another 2,000 sitting there bored out of their minds because their team is already back home. Yeah, you certainly donand#8217;t want 10,000 fans screaming for the home team on national TV. That, after all, would be unfair to the visiting coach.
A dilemma facing the typical WAC basketball fan in January 2010 and#8230; Do I buy books this semester or do I spend the money on five Animal House days and nights in Las Vegas?
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In another development this week that was as surprising as a Shaquille Oand#8217;Neal tweet, the Bowl Championship Series president oversight committee rejected the Mountain Westand#8217;s proposal of an eight-team football playoff system. The proposal, after all, would have made it easier for schools outside of the power conferences to get to the title game and would have made 99 percent of college football fans extremely happy. We canand#8217;t have that, right? Of course not. The NCAA, after all, already makes a ton of money off the current system of an afterthought title game that follows meaningless bowl games, which follow the meaningless regular season. You think coaches want a playoff system? Think again. You can get a nice raise, after all, going 7-5 and playing in front of 15,000 fans in a silly bowl game during breaks in a three-hour TV commercial for Chick-fil-A, Papa Johns, Roadyand#8217;s or Meineke.
Do you have a sneaky suspicion that the NCAA is blatantly ignoring its fans by, among other things, playing league tournaments in neutral cities, repeatedly rejecting a football playoff system and playing more and more college football games on a weeknight? Well, the only fans the NCAA worries about are the television network presidents. The NCAA would rather have one camera in the stands than 100,000 fans.
Phil Jackson needs a better publicist. The Los Angeles Lakes coach told a radio audience this week that he tossed around the idea of only coaching the Lakers next season during home games. Wow. Who does he think he is? Roger Clemens? If you ever wanted to know how much an NBA coach actually coaches during a game, Jackson just told us.
The United States menand#8217;s soccer team whips Spain for its biggest victory in its history but Shaq going to Cleveland and Manny Ramirez going 0 for 1 in an Albuquerque Isotopes game are both bigger stories as far as ESPN is concerned. Itand#8217;s time we all turn ESPN off for one solid week.
The 1984 NBA draft, with Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin Willis, is widely considered the most talented draft in NBA history. But if you are a Wolf Pack fan, you have to like 1979 as the best draft ever. Magic Johnson, David Greenwood, Sidney Moncrief, Vinnie Johnson, Phil Hubbard, Bill Laimbeer, James Donaldson, Mark Eaton and about three dozen others who played at least 50 games in the NBA all came out of that 10-round draft 30 years ago. Two Wolf Pack players and#8212; Johnny High (Phoenix) and Edgar Jones (Milwaukee) were picked in the second round.
and#8212; Joe Santoro writes a weekly column for the Sierra Nevada Media Group.
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