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Thoughts on Frisco, 2019 CUSA Tournament

After two days and sixteen games, most of the staff that has put together this tournament looks exhausted. The assembled media that has been here for the duration — those poor souls that have covered both women’s and men’s games since Wednesday have the same look.

The double-sessions have a built-in break and while all the basketball is fun — this is Championship week after all, and TV has more of the same — consuming so much of it is tiring.

Putting it all on is even more so.

On twitter, @CUSA_Curtain is a bit that takes the curtain separating the two courts and runs with it.

It is all part of sense that the league is silly, second-rate, and put harshly by some: “a joke.”

People arrive at those conclusions by comparing this event to the big time stuff — Big East Tourney, ACC, SEC, etc — as if Conference USA people deliberately choose to keep the league below those others.

The truth of it is that there are two aspects of college sports that form a positive feedback loop: fandom and media. The more support from fans, the more the media wants to attach itself to the sport(s) and the more coverage it gets. The more coverage available, the easier it is to be, and continue to be a fan.

This league is weird, owing to its marriage of convenience — a guy named Blazer Phil called this league some kind of Yours, Mine, and Ours mashup of unwanted children. It is all very apt. Every single program in the conference is fighting for the kind of recognition in the state that the bigger programs get all the time.

Again, that feedback loop.

Joining all these teams together has made the entire league more easily forgettable than it otherwise could be. However, any one or two combination of defectors joining a bigger league would not necessarily bring the kind of prestige and recognition everyone wants.

Not everyone can be TCU.

The conference’s job is to do its best for its current members as whole. Putting on a good event for decent money is part of that.

The league does a nice job accommodating assembled media. Access is easy, the tools are available, the staff is helpful. All across this league the information departments are accommodating and helpful. The league credentials basically anyone willing to cover the league from small sites like this one to big papers and TV.

For fans, the location is good for families it is relatively cheap and easy to get to. Frisco is clean, nice, and new. The fan-fest is fun, and the Star complex is compelling. Every Lyft driver I talked with was shocked and surprised and two things: the fact that there was a tournament going on, and that the Star was so nice.

The arguments against this choice are usually not thinking of the full-spectrum of requirements. It is conference tournament week and a ton of venues are being taken. The Forum in Memphis is used by the AAC and that will host their tournament in Fort Worth, TX beginning in 2020. The ACC is in Charlotte. Nashville is in use sometimes.

Given the geographic spread of the league, no one destination will be easy for most teams. Frisco is near DFW airport, one of the nation’s — and the world — largest. Rotating with Birmingham is interesting, but that probably only happens after the arena is done. One concern is getting all the teams in the same place. Right now, the women’s tournament is held at the same time. The weirdness of the Ford Center is ideal for this scenario.

Putting on one giant tournament is a huge cost savings in logistics and man-power. For the individual schools, not exactly the richest group, coordinating travel for fans and administrators is much easier than getting their two programs to do different venues.

More about the event

Frisco is a nice, corporate friendly town that is ready and willing to take your tourist dollars. Putting this on is cost-effective for the league. There are unconfirmed rumors that this thing will be profitable given the increase in sponsorships this year.

Learning from last year has helped that, no doubt. Instead of staffing the entire Ford Center’s concession shops and each court-level entrance from the bleachers, the current set up only requires one side to be staffed.

Using the permanent seating helps a bit also.

There are still improvements to be made. The screens are in a weird position for the fans to see. They moved the score bug from the bottom to the top — an improvement — but it is still difficult to see at-a-glance.

Other

On MGN last year, we wrote that you could be forgiven for not caring about the league’s wallet and that is true. There were a lot of internet arguments about this this season so I felt it was important enough to discuss this time.

There has to be more interest in the programs themselves and no amount of arena spectacle will make more people are about it. I talked to a Tech alumnus — a Lyft driver — and he said he hadn’t followed Tech basketball in years.

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