Neutral site WAC basketball tournament wanted | NevadaAppeal.com

Neutral site WAC basketball tournament wanted

DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – If Western Athletic Conference basketball coaches have their way, the post-season conference tournament will be played at a neutral site starting in 2009.

A source within the WAC said that a vote had been taken, but didn’t know the exact final vote, only to say that it had passed.

When contacted, WAC commissioner Karl Benson said that a neutral-court championship had indeed been discussed. He also said that the conference will still take bid offers from WAC schools during the summer and have sites for 2009 and 2010.

Cary Groth, Nevada athletic director, said that Nevada will indeed put a bid to host the next tournaments after New Mexico State finishes its two-year run next March.

Was a vote taken?

“Perhaps,” Benson said. “I don’t know if it’s something I’m prepared to acknowledge or not.

“We have to go through a process. I don’t think it’s a surprise that coaches would like a neutral site.”

The WAC Athletic Council, which is made up of athletic directors and senior women administrators, would have to support the coaches’ proposal.

This isn’t the first time a neutral court has been discussed by the coaches. In fact, Benson seemed to be pushing Salt Lake City as a viable site two years ago when the subject first came up.

“In an ideal world, a neutral court would create the fairest competition,” Nevada coach Mark Fox said. “I guess the constant question is whether it is financially the right move for the league.”

Veteran coach Stew Morrill of Utah State said he favors either a neutral court or the regular-season champion hosting the tournament.

“We batted it around at the Final Four,” Morrill said. “We have been in the championship game two years in a row and lost on the opponents’ home court. Two years ago, we lost to Nevada (at Lawlor), but that didn’t bother me because they had earned the right (by winning regular season).

“New Mexico State didn’t win the conference nor did we. I thought we were at a decided disadvantage. The neutral court (tournament) should be explored.”

A regular-season winner hosting the championship isn’t considered viable because the host school needs prep time to sell tickets and hotel rooms would have to be secured.

If the proposal was supported, Benson said that cities and organizations would contact him about hosting the tournament, and he indicated that the WAC has been contacted in the past.

Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Sacramento would certainly be viable non-campus sites.

“It (the site) would have to fit inside our conference geography,” Benson said. “That location (Sacramento) is within WAC boundaries for sure.”

One of the biggest problems with an off-campus site would be arena rental. A neutral site is never going to draw as many fans because of travel considerations, and it’s not certain whether the WAC is popular enough to the general public to do a a good walk-up business.

When Utah State was in the Big West, the conference tournament was played at the Anaheim Convention Center, which seated 8,700 for basketball.

“We used to bring 2 or 3,000 people,” Morrill said. “It helps when there are other things to do. A lot of families came and went to Disneyland.

“We batted around Vegas (Orleans Arena). I know a lot of our fans would go to Vegas. Of course, somebody (a city or company) has to be interested in putting up the money.”

And, that’s a big expenditure because the host city has to pay the travel expenses of all 18 teams in the WAC.

Certainly from a competitive point of view, it’s worth exploring.

NEW FACES IN THE WAC

There will be two new faces on the sidelines in men’s basketball games this season.

At Hawai’i, Riley Wallace wasn’t retained, but longtime assistant Bob Nash was named the new head coach late last week.

Nash, who played at Hawai’i, had been Wallace’s right-hand man for the past two decades. Nash was a part of 11 of the program’s 12 all-time post-season appearances. Nash was 1-1 as acting head coach when Wallace missed games for various health reasons. He had a five-year career in professional basketball.

The 56-year-old Nash is the program’s 18th head coach.

The other new face will be at Louisiana Teach where it was announced late last week that Kerry Rupp would replace Keith Richard who was 10-20 last season and fashioned a 150-117 record in nine years at the helm.

Rupp was an associate head coach under Mike Davis at both Indiana (2004-2006) and Alabama-Birmingham (2006-2007). Rupp also worked with Rick Majerus at Utah, and was given credit for helping develop Andrew Bogut, the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft.

“Coach Rupp is highly regarded in the coaching profession as an incredible recruiter,” said Jim Oakes, Tech’s athletic director, in a release on the Tech Web-site. “I know he is a person of solid integrity with a real eagerness to become a successful head coach.”

FAZEKAS LEAVES SCHOOL

Nick Fazekas didn’t finish the semester as a Nevada student. He is leaving school early to prepare for the upcoming NBA Draft.

Both Fox and Groth said they were disappointed with Fazekas’ decision.

“I think he would have had a couple of hours left (after this semester),” Groth said. “He was so close. I love that guy. Kirk (Snyder) wasn’t even close when he left.”

Fazekas, Nevada’s all-time leading scorer, was one of three players in Division I this year to average a double-double this season.

WAC BASEBALL TOURNEY AT PECCOLE

Tickets for the upcoming WAC Baseball Tournament at Peccole Park can be purchased over the phone at 348-PACK or at the Legacy Hall ticket office.

The six-team event is scheduled for May 24-27. Up to 11 games will be played in the four-day event.

All-tournament general admission tickets are $10 for students, children under 12 and seniors over 65. General admission adult tickets for the tournament are $20, reserved tickets are $35 and tickets behind the plate are going for $40.

Tickets also are being sold on a single-day basis, which would be good for all three games played that day. Adult single-day tickets are $10 for general admission, $12 reserved and $15 for the section behind the plate. It’s $5 for students, seniors over 65 and children under 12.

SJSU HIRES HOOP COACH

Pam DeCosta was named the new women’s basketball coach at San Jose State last week.

DeCosta compiled a 17-11 record at Lynn University last season, including a 9-7 record in Sunshine State Conference play.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have Pam DeCosta as our new women’s coach,” said Tom Bowen, SJSU athletiuc director, in a press release. “Her philosophy mirrors our core values of academic strength and integrity as we continue to build our Culture of Champions. In addition to her basketball knowledge and coaching acumen, Pam is dedicated to the academic success of her student-athletes.”

DeCosta previously worked as an assistant at both Kansas and Oklahoma.