ESPN.com’s intrepid college basketball reporter Andy Katz broke news on Wednesday that the NCAA tournament would no longer host regional rounds in dome stadiums.
The NCAA has made one decision on domes — it is done with them in regional finals. Mark Lewis, the NCAA’s vice president in charge of championships, said using domes for regionals was a trial run for future Final Fours. But the upcoming Final Four sites have already had the dry run, so the NCAA doesn’t need to do this anymore. Lewis said regional finals should be in arenas, and that will be the plan going forward. The next three Final Fours are in Arlington, Texas, in 2014; Indianapolis in 2015; and Houston in 2016.
Final Fours have been played in domed — let’s call them what they are — football stadiums every year since 1997. The only venue in the last 17 years that functioned primarily for basketball is San Antonio’s Alamodome, where the Spurs played for eight years. And they did so with a large portion of the stadium walled off.
The NCAA has seemingly settled on a regular rotation of the Georgia Dome (Atlanta), Alamodome (San Antonio), Reliant Stadium (Houston), the New Orleans Superdome, Cowboys Stadium (Arlington, Texas) and Lucas Oil Field (Indianapolis). Ford Field in Detroit hosted the 2009 Final Four, though is not scheduled for an upcoming date.
A disastrous Final Four at Tropicana Field in 1999 and underwhelming regional run at University of Phoenix Stadium nixed them from consideration.
The rotation is unfortunate for Westerners — San Antonio is as close to the Pacific as the Final Four will venture for the foreseeable future — but it does eliminate the need for regional test runs. Final Fours are unlikely to move back to arenas, despite conversations about doing so last fall. The revenue thousands of additional ticket sales generate is too lucrative for the NCAA to pass up.
Still, the move for regionals is a minor victory. College basketball is the only American sport that hosts its championship in venues designed for other events. A common gripe is that the wide open spaces and deep backgrounds contribute to drops in shooting percentage, though Sporting News columnist Mike DeCourcy writes that isn’t the case.
However, CBS Sports Matt Jones argues the opposite. The infamous 2011 national championship game between Butler and UConn sparked the dome vs. arena discussion anew.
In addition to the impact the environmental change may have on shooters, domes do not provide the atmosphere of their more intimate counterparts. The court is isolated from the audience, giving games more of a stage performance feel and taking some of the madness out of March.