March Madness Raises the Bar

The University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team won the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament in 2014, just days after the university’s men’s team took home the same prize in their tournament. Photo courtesy of John Bazemore/AP Images
The University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team won the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament in 2014, just days after the university’s men’s team took home the same prize in their tournament. Photo courtesy of John Bazemore/AP Images

By Greg Echlin

Last year at the NCAA Men’s Final Four, the oft-used phrase “Everything’s bigger in Texas” rang true, just as the North Texas Local Organizing Committee wanted it. The combined attendance at AT&T Stadium in Arlington for both the semifinals and the championship game—158,682—set a record. Getting everything in order in the run-up to the tournament, however, was a massive undertaking as it included all three major cities in the Metroplex—Dallas to the east, Arlington in the middle and Fort Worth to the west—something Charlotte Jones Anderson, chairman of the host committee, called the “Texas twist.”

Despite the event’s success in Texas, by November, when the NCAA announced future Men’s Final Four sites through 2021, the buzzword was “walkability.” In a conference call following the formal announcements, Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s vice-president of men’s basketball, summed up the organization’s more recent thoughts on the matter: “In a perfect world, if all other aspects of the bid are solid or in line, and that proximity of hotels and ancillary events is closer, then certainly that gives (a bidding city) a higher rating.”

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