Shortly after 9 p.m. tonight Jim Nance will say “hello friends” and the NCAA Title Game will be underway from the Georgia Dome.
This marks the 17th straight year that college basketball's premier event will be played in a football stadium. Next season the Final Four will set attendance records when Cowboys Stadium hosts the event. There is no doubt that by playing in a dome more people can attend and more revenue can be earned. However, at some point the intimacy of the game is lost.
To say that dome's ruin college basketball is ridiculous. There is a notion that teams shoot better in arenas than dome's but during this year’s tournament the numbers are almost identical. Bob Knight was once asked if depth perception and the shooting backdrop in a dome would affect his team. Knight noted that most players learn to play basketball outside, the largest dome in the world.
However, there is something to be said for atmosphere and intimacy. Attending a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium or Assembly Hall makes a fan feel like a part of the game. Watching a game with binoculars or on the jumbotron at a dome is less of a religious experience.
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For fans considering a trip to next year’s Final Four, the NCAA lottery for tickets is now taking applications. Despite having more than 100,000 seats in Cowboys Stadium the public can only “win” the right to purchase seats in the fourth deck. In other words, at least the best 50,000 seats are spoken for between NCAA corporate sponsors, teams, people deemed worthy, and coaches.
While the public clamors for tickets, coaches more and more are passing on the event. They attend meetings, some stick around for the games on Saturday, and many chose not to watch the action. One coach, who frequently attended games when they were played in arenas, noted that he is courtside for 30 games a season and watching other teams play from nose bleed seats is not something he is interested in. Of course, the coaches version of a nose bleed seat is significantly better than the best ticket the public can win in the lottery.
If the tournament ever returns to arena's, prices on the secondary ticket market will soar, and the public will vie for very few and maybe no available seats. However, in a sport that is known for Allen Fieldhouse, the Palestra, and Madison Square Garden, it sure would be fun to bring character and history back to the sport’s biggest stage.