This week the Pac-10 basketball tourney will start for the final time. No, they're not scrapping the entire thing Los Angeles, don't get excited, it will just be the Pac-12 Tourney next year. Besides the addition of 2 more teams to the tournament, Larry Scott really needs to consider making some other vital adjustments.
Some of you may have noticed that Scott announced that the Pac-10 tourney has partnered up with YouTube to stream post-game conferences as well as any games that are not already going to be broadcast on FSN (read: women's games). This is a great step by Scott and the conference in increasing exposure in the Pac-10 tournament. In the last couple of years the tournament has been little more than an after thought on the national stage at this time of year. And that really needs to change. I don't think I need to tell you how important it is for marketing dollars, recruiting, and the betterment of the conference to get as much exposure on Pac-10 teams as possible. Lastly, this small step is a sign of the forward thinking that Scott has in mind when it comes to the Pac-10's next media deal. Teaming up with the largest online video network in the world, even if it's for something as small as post-game conferences and not highly popular games means Scott is determined to broadcast as much Pac-10 sports as possible and he'll use all available media components possible to make that happen.
Obviously with the addition of 2 more teams to the tourney, the format is going to have to change. I don't expect to see any extra days added to the tournament, but instead of having the top 6 teams in the conference get a first day bye, instead it will only be the top 4 teams. That means there is going to be an additional 2 games on the first day of the tournament and instead of 9 total games, 11 now.
One thing I hope they consider is moving up some of the start times for the games. Right now the final game on the first day starts at 8:30PM PST. That's 11:30PM EST where much of the selection committee and big time college basketball viewers reside. The first two rounds of the tournament get absolutely no exposure because they start so late. It would be real easy to start game 1 at 11:30AM, game 2 at 2:00PM, game 3 at 5:00PM and the final game start at 7:30PM. It would also allow the conference to put their more highly regarded games and teams in primetime on both the west and east coast for two consecutive days.
Lastly, the whole "Pac-10 tourney in LA every year" thing has to stop. I understand that the last commissioner was spineless and bowed to whatever wish the So Cal schools demanded, but this is the dumbest thing. I won't even get into the fact that it's a competitive advantage for the So Cal schools to be able to play in the tournament close to home every year, instead I'll talk about this from a financial perspective.
Last year the Pac-10 tourney averaged attendance of 12,458 per game. For an arena that has capacity of 19,078 that means the place is 65% filled for every game. You know how you're watching the game at home and it seems like the place is half empty? Well, you're almost right. Now let's say that the average ticket price is $50, with an extra 6,600 seats available, that means the conference is giving up $330,000 for each game. With the conference expanding to 12 teams and now 11 games, that means if the conference is able to sell out the tournament they bring an extra $3.6 million dollars each year. Even if you cut that difference in half, you're still looking close to an extra $2 million dollar each year for the conference.
So how does the conference sell out the arena every year. Easy, change the location up.
There are now 6 other locations that can house a tournament that have greater than 17,000 seat capacity. US Airways Arena, Arizona (18,422), EnergySolutions Arena, Utah (19,911), Rose Garden, Oregon (20,630), Key Arena, Washington (17,072), Pepsi Center, Colorado (19,155), HP Pavillion, No Cal (19,190). Another thing I would do is let a "local" school be the host of the tournament each year and let them negotiate a deal with the arena for sponsorship rights and extra revenue sales (i.e. concessions, etc).
On top of that, you'll be opening the tournament to people who have no way of easily getting to LA each year to watch games. Plus, if you know the tournament won't be coming around to you for another 6-7 years, the number of sales of tickets will increase dramatically.
There are definitely some roadblocks to making this type of change, especially in using an NBA arena for 4 straight day (except Seattle, sorry about that) when it comes to scheduling. But nothing that should prohibit the Pac from doing so, especially considering the amount of money that is being left on the table.
I'm glad Scott is a forward thinking Conference Commissioner, and that he's willing to try some out of the box thinking to promote the teams in the conference. I really hope to see some of these changes in the tournament next year, because if I have to watch 11 half empty games when most of the country has gone to bed on a regional broadcast for another couple of years, I think I might pull my hair out.