At some point while watching this week’s Pac-10 Tournament, you will ask yourself, “Why are they playing basketball in an airplane hangar decorated with empty seats?” The Staples Center may be a lovely venue for stargazing and watching the Lakers, but it is sorely lacking as a venue for college basketball, a fact that is reinforced every March during what should be the pinnacle of the Pac-10’s campaign.
Instead, most of the games not involving UCLA are played out in a morgue-like atmosphere, with thousands of empty seats ringing the action and a few hardy fans trying to make as much noise as they can in the cavernous facility.
So what’s the solution? Simple - rotate the league tournament to the various arenas within the league’s footprint. It’d be an easy adrenaline boost to game atmosphere and fan interest, but conservative league officials would never do it for fear of reprisal by their television partners and the general ineptitude of the Pac-10 when it comes to making common sense decisions.
Angelinos could care less about anything but the Lakers and the latest exploits of Lindsey Lohan, so there’s no general interest audience to help with attendance. Most folks from Washington and Oregon would rather eat glass shards than go down to L.A. for an extended period of time, so that limits crowds as well.
But the Pac-10 has a unique set up that makes it simple to spread the wealth when it comes to the tournament. Each “pairing” of schools could host the tourney for two years at the following, much-more-fan-friendly arenas: UW and WSU (Key Arena), Cal and Stanford (Oracle Arena), Oregon and Oregon State (Rose Garden) and Arizona and ASU (US Airways Arena). Then the tourney could rotate back to L.A. for USC and UCLA.
There would be a lot more interest from the average sports fan in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Phoenix than in Los Angeles, and I would guarantee that moving the tournament would produce the kind of buzz that is sorely lacking now. Who cares if FSN is based in L.A.? They’ve got trucks up and down the West Coast, and I have no doubt that they could provide the same kind of coverage from humble little burghs like Seattle.
Sounds reasonable, no? Well, the Pac-10 seems to be the place where reasonable ideas go to die (don’t get me started on their terrible TV deals), so don’t expect anything to change anytime soon.
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