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November 17, 2014

Scott Barnes

Dan Gavitt

DAVE WORLOCK:  Good afternoon, everyone.  I guess good morning to our friends on the West Coast.  We want to thank you for your time today and listening to this teleconference with Scott Barnes, the vice president and director of athletics at Utah State University and the chair of the Division I men's basketball committee for the 2014‑15 season.  He is joined by Dan Gavitt, who is the vice president of men's basketball for the NCAA.
Before we take questions, we would like to extend our thanks to the members of the Division I men's basketball committee and the men's basketball staff for their hard work in getting all of these bid preparations going.  It's been a long, tedious process.  We thank all of the different hosts out there who put so much time, energy and resources into putting together outstanding bids, and the men's basketball committee made its decision late last week for the 2017‑21 Final Fours and the 2016‑18 preliminary rounds of the men's basketball championship.
Before we turn it over to questions, I'd like to introduce Scott Barnes again.  Scott will have some opening remarks and then we'll take questions.
SCOTT BARNES:  Thank you, David, and welcome to all of you.  Thanks for taking some time today.  We are excited.  As many of you know, Friday night we were able to announce for the first time on live television the 2017 through '21 Final Four sites, and we certainly appreciate CBS Sports Network and their partnership ongoing.
37 sites were chosen to host the preliminary rounds in '16 through '28 and we'll be talking more about that.  One of the things that our committee is very pleased with is we think about the national footprint that is the NCAA Tournament, we certainly feel like we hit the mark relative to both Final Four sites as well as preliminary round sites.  We're excited about going to familiar hosts, certainly as you look at the list, as well as new sites.  Brooklyn, Des Moines, two examples of that, and as you look at the job Dayton did in hosting First Fours over time, they're back in the mix in that community, and how they embrace this event certainly will be an asset as we move forward.
With that, I'd like to open it up.  As Dave Worlock has mentioned, Danny Gavitt is on the call, as well, and look forward to fielding any questions you may have.

Q.  Dan or Scott, in selecting Wichita, they've kind of tripped up a couple times and got the bid.  Anything in particular about Wichita that allowed you to come back to them?  It's been since 1994 you were here.  It's been a while.  Anything particular on the bid this time or circumstance that allows you to pick them this time?
SCOTT BARNES:  Well, I'd ask Dan to follow up, as well.  Certainly Wichita and the support that they've had in their program and that community certainly bodes well for that selection.  Sometimes those selections just don't fall in a particular year the way that folks hope to, but we're certainly happy to have them back, and they'll do an excellent job for us.
DAN GAVITT:  I agree.  I think one of the things that's interesting about this process is that it's really a big jigsaw puzzle as much as anything.  Not every city can bid for every available year, and so often times, especially in areas of the country like the Midwest where there are so many terrific host cities and institutions and conferences, it's a very comparative process.  You know, trying to maintain going back to familiar places where there's been great support in the past while still introducing newer sites that have not hosted for a while can be a challenge.
Wichita was a great‑‑ put together a great bid last time, was very competitive for it in the last cycle, and just was edged out by some other really good options, as well.  But the committee felt very strongly that this bid was as good as last time, and there was more opportunity this time than there was.

Q.  For both you guys, first I wonder if you could speak to the competition as you tried to set the 2016 through 2020 Final Four.  Did they ultimately have a reason why you decided to go out one more year to account for Indianapolis?  And then secondly, specifically about San Antonio, you guys have been here several times before.  You didn't come during the last bid cycle.  What did you see that San Antonio would improve?  Are there any concerns about the city after not picking them the last time, and how do you feel like the people down here reacted to that snub and kind of picked the pieces up and did what you asked them to do to come along and get their bid together for this coming time?
SCOTT BARNES:  Good question, sort of maybe a three‑part question.  Let me address the Indianapolis piece, too, in '21.  The unique agreement between the city of Indianapolis and the NCAA as it relates to hosting a certain number of events on a five‑year increment allowed us to move them and keep the integrity of the selection process intact, move them to '21, and really free up space.  They were eager to do that, freed up some space for us to look at the other cities.
The presentations of the eight members‑‑ I'm sorry, the eight cities that came to Indianapolis to present was just excellent.  Each of those cities came with compelling reasons why they were ready to host and would do an excellent job in that way.
As it relates to San Antonio specifically, one of the things that after the last go‑around in 2008 that was suggested, and they heard loud and clear, was that the facility needed to be updated and upgraded, if you will, to really help facilitate an excellent event, which they're obviously used to hosting.
They are committed to doing so in terms of the facility upgrade, and that certainly played a part.
Now, as you think about the process, there's several components, and I can talk a little more about the process here in a minute, but certainly their commitment, the city's commitment to upgrade those facilities was incredibly important.
The fact that San Antonio is a favorite among fans, coaches and student‑athletes as a city in hosting played very strongly into consideration, and certainly our site visit to San Antonio only strengthened that case.  The passion that the community had and just being there as we had our site visit was telling.  Certainly the track record of hosting and the way that that community has embraced this event has been exceptional.
So to add to that the infrastructure improvements and long‑term planning that the city has to make what has been a great event even better in San Antonio obviously had a lot to do with them winning the bid.
DAN GAVITT:  I'll just jump in and add to that, as well.  The first question about Indianapolis, a real credit to the city of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Sports Corporation that we work closely with on all events, to explore and provide the committee with the flexibility of the consideration of '21 versus the '17 through '20 time period helped enormously because of the real competitiveness of the process to get a Final Four selection, and it did, as Scott mentioned, allow for the committee to essentially choose an additional city in that original '17 through '20 time period.  Just a terrific opportunity for the cycle.
And certainly with San Antonio, I think the leadership of Lynn Hickey, the athletic director at UTSA, Russ Bookbinder from the San Antonio Sports Commission, as well as city manager Sheryl Sculley, did a terrific job of bringing that entire community together to put together a very competitive bid and to allow for the committee to feel confident going back to a place that's been a real fan favorite over the years.

Q.  I'm wondering how much of a factor the new downtown arena being built in Sacramento played in Sacramento landing a spot, and whether there was any concern by the committee, the fact that the arena is still under construction and won't be completed until 2016.
SCOTT BARNES:  I'll address that first, and Danny may want to add some thoughts.  Again, we'll use this term throughout, but this is a giant jigsaw puzzle, so certainly the timing of when folks are interested, when facilities are completed, we had several, both at the preliminary rounds as well as the Final Four rounds, where facilities are not yet completed, but certainly we vet that process.  We understand all of the implications and where that sits and had confidence in that process in Sacramento in terms of moving that forward and being ready.
But you know, timing is really important in all this, as well, because there's so many moving parts.
DAN GAVITT:  You know, the facilities that are being constructed in Sacramento, Atlanta and Minneapolis for the Final Fours, the main tenants of those facilities, NBA teams, NFL teams, are going to have to be playing in those facilities before our event.  I think we did our due diligence with the facilities and with the cities, but essentially there's a priority in each of those venues before we were to arrive.

Q.  I'm going to follow up on that a moment.  Can you tell me if you've ever cut it so close?  It's just six months between the time the new arena opens and the time the tournament is scheduled to come here to Sacramento.  Have you ever cut it so close, and if so, do you have a backup plan if the arena should fall behind schedule here?
DAN GAVITT:  I'd have to do some research, honestly, to know if the time frame was as close historically as it is with this selection.  My sense is that there have been situations over the years where that has been the case, and there is always a backup plan.  We had 57 different cities that bid for these three years in the preliminary rounds, so there are other viable options on the West Coast.  But we're excited about Sacramento.  We have every confidence that things are going to be completed on time and it's going to be a fantastic site, not just this time, but we're hopeful for years to come, as well.

Q.  This is similar to the last couple.  You're coming to the new arena in Detroit in 2018, I see, not built yet.  Do you want to add anything else?  You've been to Ford Field before, which is almost across the street.  Why this new arena that's still under construction?
DAN GAVITT:  I can speak to part of that.  I think that one of the things that should seem apparent as you look through the three years of the preliminary rounds that are reflected by this men's basketball committee is that outside of the Final Four, which has a minimum seating capacity of 60,000, this committee feels pretty strongly that when the opportunities present themselves that the other rounds of the tournament shall be played in arenas.  It does not eliminate the possibility of using domes for regionals in the future.  There are some great facilities like Ford Field, the Carrier Dome in Syracuse that have been longtime hosts and will continue to be, but there's not a dome in the mix in any of the rounds in this cycle.  But I think that's part of the decision that the committee made here.  With a brand new facility that's an arena that can offer that kind of experience to the student‑athletes, I think they were excited about the possibility of taking it to the new Detroit Arena.

Q.  Pretty much along those same lines, I was wondering, how much does the success that the tournament has had in Detroit in some of those early years, '09 for the Final Four and the regional before that, how much did that play into the decision to come back to a city like that?
SCOTT BARNES:  It certainly is important.  The track record Detroit has had is certainly one consideration and certainly was talked about by the committee.
DAN GAVITT:  I would like to echo that.  I think the committee does try to move this event around, as Scott mentioned, and rightfully so, and expose it to different communities.  But first and foremost on this committee's mind is the experience of the student‑athletes, and a huge component of that is having a full arena and getting that excitement that comes with March Madness and the NCAA Tournament.  I think that's part of the reason why Dayton was successful in retaining the First Four, and why many traditional and longtime hosts were selected again, because a proven track record of having a sold‑out or nearly sold‑out venue is what makes March Madness special for the student‑athletes.

Q.  Question for Dan:  Can you just speak to coming back to Providence?  I know obviously you've been here for a lot of those in the past.  Also just a little bit more on the domes.  Some of the domes in the regionals had drawn well, but obviously you stayed away from that this time.
DAN GAVITT:  Sure.  I think Providence had the opportunity to host a second and third round just a few years ago.  The feedback from the teams that participated, Villanova being one of them, and Ohio and Georgetown, others that were there, was very positive.  The building was sold out.  The atmosphere was electric.  Providence College did a terrific job, and they did the last time.  It was soon after they had last hosted, which I think may have played into the possibility that they were not awarded last time, but this committee felt that it was a great site and it should go back.
The domes, and Scott will maybe speak to this, as well, certainly there has been success.  This year in Indianapolis with Louisville and Kentucky and Tennessee and Michigan, there was a huge crowd for the Midwest regional.  Like I said, there's the possibility we may go back to using domes in the future for sure, but again, the potential of selling out a building and having it be a tough ticket and an incredible atmosphere is greater, frankly, the committee thinks in arenas than it is in domes.  There's more risk, I think, going to the domes with that kind of student‑athlete experience.  That was, I think, essentially why the committee made the decisions they did.

Q.  Is this a short advance for the 2016 cities, or that's just kind of the way the calendar fell?
DAN GAVITT:  It is somewhat, and part of the reason why it was synced up this way is to line up with site selections for other NCAA championships and to try to be on the same cycle in the same year that other championships like hockey and wrestling and women's basketball are awarded.  I think in the future we'll be a couple of years ahead of that, and same goes with the Final Four site selection process because one of the things that we learned in the Final Four process in particular is that hotel availability and convention center space gets booked now so much further in advance, even with non‑athletic events, that we probably need to get a little bit further ahead with the cycle.
But the staff is very professional, and together with the host institutions and conferences, we'll be absolutely fine pulling off these great events in '16.

Q.  Given the tournament's Final Four history in the Georgia Dome, three times since 2002, I was wondering how big a factor the new stadium was in the decision to come back to Atlanta, and having been briefed I'm sure thoroughly on the plans for that stadium, what your thoughts are, if anything stands out now about the design that made you want to play the Final Four there.
SCOTT BARNES:  I'll take the first stab.  Thank you for the question.  In terms of the stadium, obviously impressive, impressive plans.  Playing in new stadiums, obviously there's a benefit to that, and breaking it in, so to speak, in this tournament.  One of many factors, certainly another factor being the tremendous success that Atlanta had in hosting their last Final Four.  That certainly was a factor, as well, when you think about the student‑athlete experience.  We talk a lot about that and the fan experience.  Atlanta delivered in a big way there, coupled with the excitement and draw of a new venue, certainly played a role in their selection.

Q.  And just to follow up on that, what other things about that downtown area makes it conducive to an event like this?
SCOTT BARNES:  Well, we talk a lot as a committee about footprint and the walkability of the city as it relates to ancillary events, whether it be Bracket Town or the concerts in the park and other things, and when you think about Atlanta, and not only what they delivered on in the last Final Four but their plans, revised plans, it really is‑‑ it captures what we're looking for and that walkability and that student‑athlete and fan experience where things are condensed in close proximity for the most part.  It really builds out that atmosphere of this very special event.

Q.  And last thing, with the '18 South regional in Philips Arena rather than the new stadium, does that mean that the 2020 Final Four likely could be the first basketball games played in that building?
DAN GAVITT:  Well, we've not awarded, as you mentioned, the '19 preliminary round sites, so the regional in advance of 2020 has yet to be assigned.  It would be considered to take it to the new dome in Atlanta.  But it may not, either.  Depending on what other events could be in that building prior to hosting a Final Four, that'll weigh into the committee's decision on the regional before then, as well.  Many of these facilities, as we went through the Final Four site selection process, there was consideration given if a facility was planning on having another basketball event in the building prior to us being there for the Final Four, and there's also the possibility of going into these facilities in the summertime and having a kind of buildout of our seating system and kind of going through some of the logistical challenges of hosting an event in these new facilities.
Our staff and consultants are really confident that we'll be just fine in each case by having those opportunities over the summer with other events in the building before they host the Final Four.

Q.  So just to make sure I understand, the 2019 preliminary rounds is a possibility but not a requirement for the new Atlanta Stadium; would that be accurate?
DAN GAVITT:  That is accurate to say, yeah.  Previous to about a year ago, there was a requirement for a Final Four site to host a regional the year before.  It's no longer a requirement.  It's an opportunity and a possibility but not a requirement.

Q.  I think the last couple of questions sort of got to what I wanted to know in terms of the domes, and yeah, there used to be a requirement of hosting a regional final the year before a Final Four, but I guess my question at this point is because it's no longer a requirement, that kind of opened the field, did it not, for different sites for you guys?
DAN GAVITT:  It absolutely did, yeah.  And as you know, the history of this tournament, there's so many great arenas, Kansas City being one of them, that have such a rich tradition with the tournament, so it certainly does open up more possibilities.  Part of this is the committee does a great job of listening to all the constituents in the game.  I think if you polled coaches in particular, the majority of coaches would say they would rather play in an arena than a dome, certainly before they get to the Final Four.  I think it's a realization and understanding, given the popularity of the Final Four, that that's no longer a possibility, but I think coaches would much prefer to play in an arena and advance to the Final Four.

Q.  About Dayton, what makes Dayton so attractive that you guys keep going back to them with the First Four, and how competitive was the bidding this year?
SCOTT BARNES:  Well, it's immensely competitive.  Again, as I said early on, the folks that are bidding, the cities that are bidding are incredibly prepared, and everyone has a bunch of arrows in their quiver, let me say.  But Dayton has obviously done the First Four now several times.  That community has embraced this event at a very high level, and again, when you think about our goals as it relates to the student‑athlete experience and the fan experience and some of those things, they hit the mark.  The passion and how they've embraced this event certainly play a part in it.

Q.  Are you able to say how many cities bid for the First Four?
DAN GAVITT:  There were two at the end of the day that bid for the First Four.

Q.  This is actually kind of a follow‑up question, but do you require that preliminary sites have eight hotels that are suitable, or do you allow teams to double up?
DAN GAVITT:  There are situations where we double up, yes.  There is not a requirement of eight specific hotels.  Certainly that's considered in the process when one city may be compared to another, if the hotels are‑‑ if the facilities are otherwise equal, the cities and hotel situation can distinguish one from another, that can be a consideration.  It is one of the considerations.  But it's not a requirement.

Q.  You don't have it happen very often, though, do you?
DAN GAVITT:  No, it's not common.  But it has happened in the past.  We even have that in the Final Four.  This year in North Texas we had two teams stay at the same hotel in downtown Dallas.  Some of it depends on the size of the hotel and what kind of facilities can be offered, team meeting space, meal space and things like that.

Q.  Which two teams stayed in the same hotel in Dallas last year?
DAN GAVITT:  I believe it was Florida and Kentucky.  I could be mistaken.

Q.  Sacramento has an arena right now that has hosted the NCAA Tournament in the past and is the home of an NBA franchise, and I'm wondering‑‑ and they've submitted bids in recent years that have been denied here in Sacramento, so I'm wondering how much of a factor the new downtown arena played in Sacramento getting back into the tournament.
DAN GAVITT:  I can answer that.  I think a new facility has enormous impact on a bid.  Again, it's not a requirement by any stretch.  We have some facilities that are older, but we also, as you can see, through both Final Fours and the preliminary rounds, when a facility is new and is anxious to host this event in a great community that's supported the NCAA Tournament over the years, it's a nice opportunity to expose student‑athletes to a brand new, shiny facility.

Q.  I wanted to talk for our listeners in the Dayton area about Dayton's choice, again, to host the opening games through 2018 and the reasons for that.
SCOTT BARNES:  I'll take the first shot here.  Again, we talked about it earlier, but when you think about Dayton's track record in hosting the First Four and the community and how they've embraced this event, it's just since its inception really has been remarkable.  The passion that Dayton has had for this, obviously the success they've had in hosting it played a significant role in their selection.
DAN GAVITT:  The last two years Dayton has sold out UD arena.  They've got this incredible track record that goes back to the opening round when it was 64 versus 65, and the local organizing committee there has just gotten stronger and more committed each and every year.  The feedback that we hear from the teams that are participating in First Four is overwhelmingly positive, about the experience that they're getting, both playing in UD arena in front of a sold‑out and loud and engaged crowd as well as the hospitality that they experience from the entire Dayton community.

Q.  Just one more question, this one about Philips Arena.  I don't believe Philips has ever hosted a Division I tournament game, and it's about 17, 18 years old.  I just wondered what your thoughts are about that building and whether having the Division II and III championship games there in 2013 had an influence or just generally what your thoughts are about that building as opposed to where you've played tournament games in Atlanta in the past.
DAN GAVITT:  I can take a crack at that.  I think you're absolutely correct that the experience that we had at Philips Arena with the Division II and Division III championships in 2013 was a very positive one that in the staff's mind that very much weighed into the consideration given to Philips Arena to host a regional.  The entire venue and the organization was incredibly accommodating.
Remember, you may not know, but when Atlanta was awarded the Final Four for 2013, the Division II and III championships games were not part of the bid.  That possibility came years later as part of the 75th anniversary or celebration of March Madness, and so we had to go, the NCAA, to Philips Arena and ask with the help of the Atlanta organizing committee if they would make their arena available to host those games and work with us to make that happen.  They were very accommodating.  It was a terrific site, and we think it'll be a great regional site for that reason.
DAVE WORLOCK:  I just wanted to confirm that Philips has never hosted the tournament before.  It's only been held at the Omni and the Georgia Dome to this point.
DAN GAVITT:  I wanted to also add to what we may have said earlier.  In Wichita's case, the Missouri Valley Conference is co‑hosting that with Wichita State University.  The Missouri Valley Conference has been and continues to be a tremendous host conference for each and every round of the tournament.  And just in general, you may have seen on the press release as well as online the announcement of all these sites.  We list the host first, and that's not by accident.  Each and every round of the tournament from First Four up through the Final Four is hosted by a member institution or conference, and with a dozen people that work on the NCAA staff on this event every year full‑time and probably another 25 in the championships group that help, especially with the Final Four, it's the conferences and institutions that help us make March Madness what it is for the student‑athletes and fans.  We couldn't do it without those host conferences and institutions, and we're indebted to them.  They're incredibly committed.  They're passionate about hosting the NCAA Tournament, and conferences like the Mountain West, and there are many others, the Big 12 hosted the Final Four last year and the Horizon League and IUP who will host this year's Final Four in Indianapolis are just incredible partners for us to pull off March Madness every year.

Q.  But the Valley hosting, being the co‑host or whatever kind of helped seal the deal or helped with the selection of Wichita then?
DAN GAVITT:  It certainly can be a factor.  You know, when a bid is submitted by a conference or institution that has a real track record of success in hosting before, together with a location that works for the tournament, as well.  It can certainly be a factor.  Missouri Valley will host in '16 in Scottrade Center in St.Louis, as well, so yep, certainly can be a factor.

Q.  Dan, my question involves the San Antonio Final Four.  I was always under the impression, and I could have been mistaken on this, that one of the issues in not returning to San Antonio prior to this was the challenge of whether it could accommodate the new stadium concept.  Was I correct in that?  And if so, is it now rectified by whatever changes and improvements are being made to the arena, to the stadium?
DAN GAVITT:  You are correct that I think that the Alamodome gave pause in the past selection of the Final Four.  It's an older facility now when compared in the business process to the newer facilities that have come online in recent years.  But it does meet the minimum bid specifications.  The investment that the city and Alamodome are going to make to renovate the arena, the dome, before the 2018 Final Four were a significant consideration in their award this time.  Short of that investment, I don't know that this committee would have felt confident going back to San Antonio.  That was a major factor.
And whether it will help in future Final Four bids or not is really to be determined by a future committee, but certainly it gave them the opportunity to host this, and the committee and the college basketball community is pretty excited about going back to San Antonio.

Q.  Will it be able to accommodate the stadium setup?  Even if it doesn't reach the capacity of the AT&T, are you able to set up the court in the center the way you have for the past six or seven?
DAN GAVITT:  Yep, great question, and yes, we will.  The overall capacity of the building will be a little bit less than some of the other Final Four sites, AT&T Stadium being one of them, which would have a higher capacity, but it does meet the minimum specification of 60,000.  The court will be in the middle of the building, same seating configuration, and we think it'll be a great experience.

Q.  And I wanted to ask as a follow‑up to an expression I heard earlier mentioned, close and condensed proximity.  In the relation to the Final Fours that have been awarded in the future, it seems that you have chosen some sites that have the bulk of their hotel rooms in that close and reasonable proximity to the Final Four facility.  Am I reading too much into that, or is that one of the factors that you considered when you were awarding the future Final Four sites?
SCOTT BARNES:  Thank you for the question.  Certainly one of many factors, but again, we use the term walkability, and in a perfect world, if all other aspects of the bid are solid or in line and that proximity of hotels and ancillary events and those things are closer, then certainly that is a high‑‑ it gives them a higher rating.  Again, it has to do with the student‑athlete and fan experience.  Everything else being equal, that certainly plays a part.
DAVE WORLOCK:  We would like to thank Scott and Dan for their time this afternoon.

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