Pac-12 coaches, including Cal and USC, approve of tournament move to Seattle
The Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament will move to Seattle in 2013 “in order to create the most dynamic atmosphere for student athletes,” announced conference commissioner Larry Scott today.
Seattle was chosen because of the popularity of women’s basketball there, which includes a large fan base for WNBA team, the Seattle Storm. Over the last four years that the league’s tournament has been in Los Angeles, its third venue in 10 years, attendance has dropped dramatically.
Scott said the move will also be good for the tournament, as the conference has negotiated major television deals for next season.
“It will mean unprecedented national TV exposure Every tournament game will be broadcast live on national TV, with the championship game on ESPN2.”
The three-year contact for Seattle also means that the women’s and men’s tournaments will be in separate locations for the first time, and will be on different weekends. The men’s venue, to be announced tomorrow, is expected to be Las Vegas. Scott said separating the two wasn’t his staff’s original intention. But as they considered tournament bidders, Force 10 Sports Marketing, LLC, which owns the Storm, became a strong candidate.
“We will have this event the week before the men’s tournament,” Scott said. “The women’s tournament hasn’t got the full recognition…that it deserves.”
The Storm’s attendance is among the top teams in the league. Fans there are known for their dedication and advocacy of women’s basketball, which Scott said the Pac-12 found appealing. Tournament games will be at Key Arena, the Storm’s home court.
“Force 10 Sports Marketing shares our commitment and passion for women’s sports, and we look forward to growing the tournament together,” said Scott.
Longtime Stanford Coach Tara Vanderveer, who last week criticized Los Angeles as a location for the event due to low attendance, said Monday she supports the change.
“I’m very excited the Pac-12 Tournament will be moved to Seattle,” she said. “It will be really fun to be in a place that appreciated women’s basketball and wants to grow our tournament.”
Force 10 CEO Karen Bryant, University of Washington Coach Kevin McGuff, Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams and Seattle Sports Commission Executive Director Ralph Morton also expressed their support for the tournament to be a success in its new location.
“We are tremendously excited about working together to deliver a first-class event for the participants, fans and the community,” Bryant said. “This region is passionate about basketball, and is an idea destination for this championship event.”
The first women’s tournament – then the Pac-10 – was in 2002 at the University of Oregon. For the next six years it was held at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., before moving to the Galen Center/Staples Center in 2009. The Pac-12 had considered multiple bids as the expiration of the Los Angeles contract loomed.
Other Pac-12 coaches support the change in venue.
“I think it’s a terrific location – very women’s basketball friendly and supportive,” Cal Coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “It’s a place where Pac-12 women’s basketball has and continues to develop a brand.”
USC Coach Michael Cooper acknowledged that the crowd size and crowd participation at Galen Center and Staples Center was “not what it was supposed to be.”
“It’s about what the athletes need, and the athletes need a supportive crowd,” Cooper said. “You need to give those kids that atmosphere.”
“A change in venue will be good.”