ESPN Exec: Final Four Will Return to An Arena Within 5 Years
By JASON BELZERSpecial to ZAGSBLOGNEW YORK — In news that should be music to many college basketball fans’ ears, new NCAA VP of Championships Mark Lewis said the association was “actively discussing” moving the men’s basketball championships back into arenas and out of cavernous NFL stadiums.
The statement was bolstered by Burke Magnus, ESPN’s head of college sports programming, who said “there will be a Final Four back in an arena (within the next five years). Bank on it.”
Lewis and Magnus made the comments Thursday at the annual IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.
The last arena to host a Final Four was the Meadowlands in 1996.
The next four Final Fours are booked into domes in Atlanta (2013), Arlington, Texas (’14), Indianapolis (’15) and Houston (’16).
After that, an arena on the East or West Coast — Madison Square Garden anyone? — could host a Final Four.
The Garden will host the East Regional in 2014 after not hosting an NCAA Tournament game since 1961.
Lewis told ESPN.com in September that after he was hired earlier this year, he took out map of the United States and noticed that both coasts are largely excluded from hosting the Final Four because of the location of most domes.
“I don’t know where this will lead, if anywhere, but the right thing is to sit down and have these conversations and see if we want our championship in more than eight cities or do we like playing exclusively in domes,” Lewis told ESPN.com.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.