With its latest move, the NCAA has decided that bigger is better. Having seen the success of the "BasketBowl," the 2003 match up between Kentucky and Michigan State at Ford Field, which drew a world-record 78,129, the NCAA's executive committee approved an expanded capacity for Final Fours starting with 2009's installment at the same stadium.
In previous dome-seating configurations at the Final Four, the court was set in a corner, with a curtain blocking off part of the stadium.Of course, the real reason behind the expansion is that it will bring more money into the NCAA. They predict that the larger capacity will create an added $4 million per year. 2007's championship game featuring Florida and Ohio State drew 61,458 to Atlanta's Georgia Dome. With the new plan, we're talking more tickets, more concessions, more revenue.
For "BasketBowl," the floor was placed near midfield with temporary seating installed in front of the permanent seats. It also featured a larger student section on the end lines, which the NCAA plans to continue.
This may work at Ford Field, which is designed to have the rows more vertical than most domes, but how's it going to work at the more cavernous domes like the Alamo Dome? The worst seats already provided views of miniature players. So how's it going to be with the new setup?
The capacity expansion also brings some positives as well. It will also allow for the addition of low-cost seats adjacent to the court for 1,000 students from each Final Four school. The tickets, priced at about $15-20, will also come with a system that prevents them from being resold.
That, said NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen, will create a "much needed collegiate atmosphere."It's a big move in all ways for the NCAA. Allowing the students into the stadium and closer to the court will bring a breath of fresh air, and also allow the passion that drives college basketball to come back into the Final Four.
"Students have not been this close to the court in 20 years," Shaheen said. "It's a big move for us."