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Breaking Down the NCAA Site Selections: Good Breaks, Clean Breaks and Fast Facts

3 May, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Turns Out There's a Method to the (March) Madness

And you thought March Madness had drama.

The announcement of sites for NCAA tournaments through 2022 sent many cities into party mode – and put pundits into the armchair quarterback seat. Who got what, and why? While it’s easy to recite the list, it’s more germane to sports business to examine some trends.

North Carolina in the Post-HB2 Era: With the announcement that House Bill 2, the controversial rule sometimes known colloquially as the ‘bathroom bill,’ would be repealed, North Carolina was back at the bidding table. As a result, the state picked up the following events:

  • Greensboro: Tournament Town, as Greensboro likes to call itself, is back in a big way. First- and second-round men’s basketball games in 2020, will be held in the Greensboro Coliseum.  (Fun fact: Greensboro Coliseum has hosted 63 NCAA men’s tournament games, which is fifth most in tournament history.) Greensboro also picked up the 2019 regional rounds of the Division I women’s basketball tournament and the 2021 Division I women’s swimming and diving championships. Greensboro will also host the 2022 men’s and women’s swimming and diving championships for Division II. In Division III, Greensboro will host the 2022 men’s and women’s outdoor track & field championships at the Irwin Belk facility, and the men’s and women’s soccer championships in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. The Greensboro Aquatic Center will be the site of the men’s and women’s swimming and diving championships in 2019 and 2020.

  • Winston-Salem will host the Division I women’s field hockey in 2019

  • Raleigh will host the Division I women’s golf in 2020. It will also be the location of the North Carolina men’s and women’s rifle championships in 2022 and the North Carolina women’s gymnastics regional in 2020 and 2022.

  • Cary was selected to host the Division I men’s soccer College Cup in 2019. It will also host the 2018 Division I women’s soccer College Cup in 2018. In Division II action, Cary plays host to NCAA baseball in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

First Times and New Facilities: In Detroit, Michigan, the Little Caesars Arena isn’t even scheduled to open until September 2017, but the NCAA has named it the host of the 2020 Men’s Frozen Four and the 2022 Division I Wrestling Championships.

First Times in a Long Time: A number of events in this year's site selection cycle illustrate the old March Madness adage of 'anything can happen..' Here are some prime examples of why you should never count out a city when it comes to NCAA:

  • When the Division I Wrestling Championships travel to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis in 2020, it will mark the first time the championships have been held in a football stadium since 1997, when they were held at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
  • The final game of the 2018 Division III Football Championship will be played at Woodforest Bank Stadium in Shenandoah, Texas, marking the first time in 26 years that the game will be played somewhere other than Salem, Virginia.
  • The Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship returns to Minneapolis in 2018 for the first time in 30 years when it will be at the Target Center. The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, previously held the 1988 event on campus at Williams Arena.
  • 2022 marks the return of NCAA basketball to three cities that have not hosted the men’s tournament in decades. The men’s West Regional will be played in San Francisco, which has not been a tournament site since 1960, while Fort Worth, Texas, which hasn’t been a tournament site since 1970, will host 2022 first- and second-round games. Cincinnati also will host first- and second-round action, marking the first time in 30 years the tournament will have been staged there.
  • 2019 also will mark a return of men’s tournament action to sites that have not recently hosted the event. Hartford, Connecticut, for example, has not served as host since 1998.

Ever Since that Flag Came Down: Since the removal of the Confederate flag from its state capitol grounds in 2015, South Carolina has continued to roll out the welcome mat, and NCAA took notice, awarding the state six Division I events, one Division II event and one championship event. (Trivia point: Greenville, South Carolina, stepped in this year to host early rounds of March Madness after the NCAA elected to pull events from North Carolina due to the use of HB2 in that state).

First Time for a Three-Peat: The Division II winter championships festival returns to Birmingham, Alabama, in 2021, marking the first time any city or venue has held a festival on three consecutive occasions.

Traditions: Dayton will continue to host the NCAA First Four through at least 2022, as it has served as the site for the start of the Division I men’s basketball tournament since 2001. University of Dayton Arena has hosted 117 men’s basketball tournament games, the most of any facility.

Back to the Beach: Gulf Shores, Alabama, will continue to host the popular NCAA Women’s Beach Volleyball through 2022. The inaugural event was held in 2016, and Gulf Shores was scheduled to host again in 2017.

By the Numbers: What makes the selection of sites extra-interesting? Statistics, of course. Here they are, courtesy of the NCAA:

  • 43: The number of states selected to host at least one round of an NCAA championship.

  • 53: The biggest number of championships to be hosted by one state (Pennsylvania).

  • 51: The second-highest number awarded (to Florida)

  • 41: The third-highest number of championships awarded (Indiana)

  • 22: The number of events (preliminary rounds and finals) awarded to Pittsburgh, making it the most of any city.

  • 3,000: The number of bid submissions received by the NCAA from its member schools

  • 613: The number of sites awarded in this cycle

It’s Not a Mistake: Four championships were not included in this bid cycle. Division I baseball, Division I softball and the Football Championship Subdivision game were omitted from the bidding process in 2017 because of already existing contracts. The fourth championship, Division III women’s ice hockey, does not select predetermined sites.

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