Larry Scott talked to ESPN.com earlier this week about some of the changes that have come to the conference since he bacame commissioner two years ago. While the conference's expansion and the two massive media deals were the lead topics of the discussion, Scott teased that he is rethinking how the Pac-12 basketball tournament is organized, including its current home in LA.
The Pac-12 accepted formal proposals to host the event up until its deadline Friday, with Salt Lake City's EnergySolutions Arena and Seattle's KeyArena reportedly being a couple of the potential sites.
Scott declined to name the cities that sent in proposals and said the conference had yet to rule out different models for the event, including using rotating sites annually and holding games on campus.
The basic idea of changing up the location of the tournament is one that I can get behind, as long as it is done in an informed, logical manner taking into account the lessons presented by other successful, and not so successful tournaments.
To get the idea out of the way, I see holding tournament games on campus as a complete non-starter. That is how low-to-mid major conferences conduct their tournaments, and putting aside any logistical issues, the optics of such a change to the tourney would devalue it far more than does the sight of a half-full Staples Center. One exception that I could maybe see regarding this thought would be to play opening round (play-in) games on on the campus of the higher seeded team - 12th seed @ 5th seed, 11th seed @ 6th seed and so on, with the winners going on to the main tournament site. The problem - in addition to the host campuses having to promote the games on short notice - becomes traveling logistics, particularly for the away schools if they advance. Imagine Colorado, for instance finding out after the (Saturday) regular season-finale that they have to travel to Corvallis to play the opening round game on Tuesday, and if they win, then travel to Los Angeles or Seattle to play again on Thursday. At that point, it just makes more sense to have all of the teams travel to the main site and play there.
The choice of a host site is less of an issue, but still important, especially for a tournament that does not have the history and universal buy-in of the ACC and Big East Tournaments. The Big East tourney of course has its permanent home in Madison Square Garden. While its Basketball heart may lie on Tobacco Road, and many of the great tournament moments have come in Greensboro NC, the ACC's tournament has ventured to other major cities in the ACC's footprint; Atlanta and Tampa have hosted in recent years, and Washington DC (Landover MD, before Verizon Center was built) has hosted in the past. In the Pac-12's case, rotating among two or three major conference markets like Los Angeles, Phoenix and Seattle might be better for fan interest; designating a primary host city with occasional forays into other metro areas of the conference could also get more people to attend.
If there is one thing that Commissioner Scott has excelled at, it is raising interest in the product of Pac-12 athletics to a wider audience. The Tournament has plenty of room to grow, and there may be plenty of ways that people can think up to achieve that.