Thirty-one college basketball conference tournaments are being played this week.
Usually there are 32, but the Ivy League canceled its men’s and women’s tournaments because of the coronavirus.
But only one — repeat, one — conference tournament is being played in an indoor football stadium. That’s because Conference USA is the only league that even would consider doing something this ridiculous, this nonsensical, this absurd.
The other 31 conferences get it.
But Conference USA?
For some reason the fundamental logic of this inane situation escapes the league’s leadership. I mean, who would even think of playing a major college basketball tournament on a football field?
Their peers certainly have much better judgment. The American Athletic Conference is playing at Dickies Arena, a brand-new 14,000-seat facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The Atlantic 10 is at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which is also the home of the NBA Brooklyn Nets.
The Mid-American Conference has early-round play on campus sites, but the quarterfinals through finals play in Rocket Mortgage Arena, home of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. The Mountain West plays at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, home of UNLV basketball. The Sun Belt uses campus sites for early rounds but plays the semifinals and finals at the Smoothie King Center, the home of the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.
So, while such like conferences as the MAC, Sun Belt and Atlantic 10 play in arenas, which also are home to NBA franchises, Conference USA basketball plays in the NFL Dallas Cowboys training center.
Makes perfect sense, huh?
The atmosphere in the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, is nonexistent. Two games going on at the same time, separated by just a curtain, is a concept only AAU basketball aficionados could embrace.
Then there are the fans. As in, lack thereof. The same goes for the media. So, the attendance is poor and the C-USA Tournament doesn’t get much coverage. And that was before the conference decided to keep fans away from the site because of coronavirus concerns.
Why, then, does the league’s leadership insist on holding the tournament in an indoor football arena for, now, three consecutive years?
No. 1, money.
No. 2, convenience.
Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones gives C-USA’s leadership a hefty check to play the tournament in his arena. Was it enough for the league to forget about attendance and media coverage?
Apparently so, which is sad but true.
Then there’s the convenience factor. Since Conference USA’s headquarters are located in Dallas, league officials can sleep in their own beds at night if they want.
Makes sense for them.
The problem is it doesn’t make sense for anyone else. That’s particularly true for schools and fans located in the East Division. Frisco is so far away and travel is so pricey, it is simply too expensive.
So, although Marshall, Old Dominion and Western Kentucky were leaders in C-USA attendance, it’s too far for most fans to travel.
Then, there’s the most absurd part of all. For the second consecutive year, Marshall got stuck with a 10 p.m. tipoff for its first-round game against UTEP. That means the game won’t end until midnight or later on a weeknight.
Finally, there’s the ongoing problem. Conference USA officials would have everyone believe no other city wants to host the tournament. That gives C-USA an excuse to keep renewing in Frisco.
But officials in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina once were interested, so who knows?
What I do know is playing in a football venue is a slap in the C-USA coaches’ faces.