Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
March Madness in Indy a smart move
A basketball with a logo is seen before a first round men's college basketball game between Minnesota and Louisville in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
For 30 years, it was truly March Madness.
Every round of the men’s NCAA Tournament was covered by your trusty scribe.
If the Arkansas Razorbacks were in it, coverage would start with them and end in the Final Four — from Tampa, Fla., to Seattle and many places in between.
It is mostly great memories, including soaking in a little of the local culture in places such as Albuquerque, N.M., and Greenville, S.C.
Now, in hopes of saving the tournament amid the latest outbreak of covid-19, the NCAA is searching for one site for all 67 games. The search starts and probably ends in Indianapolis, home of the NCAA.
The opinion here is the NCAA couldn’t do much better.
Sure, there are going to be scribes who complain about lost tradition. Most likely all of them will hear from my friend Dave Worlock, who will ask them if they would rather cancel the tournament. He is the director of media coordination and statistics for the NCAA.
Those seem to be the options here. Either find one central place that has enough gyms to host the tournament or run the chance of covid-19 kicking it to the curb again.
In my three decades of covering the tournament, the best places for the Final Four were Indy, San Antonio and New Orleans.
The food in San Antonio and New Orleans may have had something to do with those choices, but Indy was a basketball city. Yes, it has St. Elmo’s steakhouse and an amazing Italian restaurant, but it has dozens of other good places to eat, and most of them do carry-out.
In addition to Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Final Four already is scheduled to be played this season, the city is home to 11 colleges and universities — including Butler, where the state championship scenes from the movie “Hoosiers” were shot.
Facilities to play 67 games shouldn’t be a problem. Neither would hotels.
If it is understood correctly, a team like the Razorbacks would arrive in Indy two days before its first game and not leave until it lost.
The teams might stay in the same hotel the entire time.
They certainly would not be boarding chartered planes and flying all over the country.
The NCAA usually charters a fleet of planes, and has teams being dropped off and others being picked up. That makes sanitizing the planes very hard.
Staying in one city would give the teams a bubble, maybe not as tight as the NBA played in but certainly more than flying all over the country and staying in various hotels.
The NCAA is in negotiations with the city of Indianapolis, so it isn’t a definite. It’s likely pretty close, or the NCAA wouldn’t have broken the news Monday about playing at one site.
Obviously, this is not a perfect scenario.
Cities such as Dayton, Ohio — which was scheduled to host the “First Four” — will lose about $4 million from previous years.
Last season when the NCAA did what we now know was the right thing and canceled the tournament, it lost north of $300 million.
The NCAA Tournament is the organization’s cash cow and pays most of the bills.
It is the opinion here that the NCAA Tournament offers the best three consecutive weekends in all of athletics.
Jobs are lost if a team doesn’t make the tournament.
Dreams are built by players and coaches on making it to the Big Dance.
It isn’t perfect, but it is better than anything else around right now. It is a well-oiled machine, thanks in large part to Worlock and his staff.
Playing the entire tournament in Indianapolis makes sense for this season, and the right people are in place to pull it off.
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