MSG finds some room for NCAA regional

November, 14, 2012
The NCAA wanted to expand its footprint and get into the two largest cities in the country: New York and Los Angeles.

Getting a regional into Staples Center, one of the busier buildings in the country with three professional teams (Kings, Clippers and Lakers), was a chore. But the NCAA selection committee got it done for the 2013 West Regional final.

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Madison Square Garden
Kirby Lee/US PresswireMadison Square Garden will host the East Regional in 2014.

New York was another matter. Former NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen started the process of trying to get into Madison Square Garden. New NCAA vice president Mark Lewis and Dan Gavitt, a former Big East assistant commissioner and new NCAA tournament director, closed the deal.

But there had to be some help.

Although no one from the NCAA or Madison Square Garden would go on the record on the matter, a number of sources said that the rise of Brooklyn's Barclays Center as a player in securing major events finally pushed MSG to get back into the tournament rotation.

MSG can't be in the rotation too often because of the number of events there in March, including the Knicks, Rangers, concerts and special events. But sources said MSG wanted to be considered before Barclays.

Barclays Center hosted a college basketball opener Nov. 9 with Maryland and Kentucky, is hosting the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and the Legends Classic next week and will host the Atlantic 10 tournament in March.

On Monday, the NCAA announced that MSG would host the East Regional in 2014. According to Gavitt, MSG was only interested in a regional, not a sub-regional with eight teams.

NCAA tournament selection committee chair and Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski said he was thrilled to bring the tournament to one of the most historic buildings in the country.

Gavitt said it will go down as one of the toughest tickets. But this is about relationships, and Gavitt's play in finalizing the deal didn't hurt. He has had a long-standing relationship with MSG from his time in the Big East. His father, the late Dave Gavitt, started the conference and had the foresight to put the Big East tournament in Madison Square Garden, where it has thrived for 30 years.

Gavitt said Tuesday in Atlanta at the Champions Classic, where he and Bobinski and other NCAA and tournament officials were looking over the Georgia Dome for the Final Four, that he was amazed the Garden could get in a third event in March. The Big East tournament will take up five days, the postseason NIT locks in at least three, and the NCAA needs five days clear for a regional.

"It was important to us to put the tournament in important basketball buildings and in cities like Los Angeles and New York," Gavitt said.

Lewis said when he took over that the map of host sites was too small and often didn't include certain sections of the country.

The NCAA tournament needs to continue generating interest in a crowded landscape. Putting the event in L.A. in 2013 and then in New York in 2014 will give it an immediate pop.

Bobinski said the tournament selection committee didn't visit the idea of putting the Final Four in an arena rather than a domed stadium. Looking at future sites, and even considering one that would reduce the number of seats by nearly 50,000 but put the Final Four in a more intimate setting, will occur in the spring, if at all.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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