Officals say this year’s WAC tournament deserves a standing ovation
By STEVE RANSON
Appeal News Service
RENO – Judging by Saturday’s nearly packed house for the Western Athletic Conference men’s championship basketball game at the University of Nevada, officials from several entities give this year’s 2006 tournament a standing ovation.
Boosted by the championship game between the two top teams in the conference, the tournament attracted more than 42,000 fans to the men’s games over a three-day span.
“From an administrative standpoint, both years have been good,” said Jeff Hurd, the WAC’s senior associate commissioner and tournament director.
The University of Nevada also hosted the tournament last year, but New Mexico State University won a bid to host the postseason tourney in 2007 and 2008.
Hurd considers this year’s tournament as a success.
“We have had two extremes in two years,” Hurd said “Last year the host team’s (Nevada) losing made a difference.”
This year, though, the top-ranked Wolf Pack and second place Utah State duked it out in the championship game. Hurd said the Aggies brought the most people to Reno. Cary Groth, Nevada’s athletic director, said about 3,000 Utah State fans made the trip
Groth said the difference between last year and 2006 came in ticket sales. She said fans bought tickets for the entire three days only to watch the Pack encounter an early exit.
“This year the people bought tickets for Friday and Saturday,” Groth said, adding that fans figured the Wolf Pack would win their first-round game against eighth-place Idaho.
The fan logic proved correct as Nevada won the semifinal and title games.
Groth said the crowds have been good for all the sessions, including the women’s games.
“The crowds at the women’s games were wonderful,” Groth added.
She said more fan interest was generated for the men’s games because of the number of quality teams. For example, Groth said any one of five teams could have won this year’s WAC championship.
Groth said Reno proved to be an ideal host city, and she wishes this area could host the WAC basketball tournament for two more years.
“They should have a place that draws in your fans and gives them an opportunity to do other things,” she pointed out.
Groth said the university will continually bid for any WAC tournament.
The Reno-Sparks Convention Visitors Authority provided the main sponsorship. The RSCVA assisted the University of Nevada for obtaining sponsors and community support in order to pay for visiting teams’ hotel rooms, meals, transportation to and from the various universities and ground transportation.
Shelli Fine of the RSCVA said it cost between $800,000 to $900,000 to put on the tournament which began Tuesday with one women’s play-in game. Fine’s job was to ensure sponsors were lined up for the tournament, and she served as the liaison between the RSCVA and Lawlor Events Center.
Fine said this year’s tournament was better than last year. She said the RSCVA could make a small profit once all expenses are tallied in several weeks.
“It’s so tough to tell. The projections show we could make a little, but we have a lot of last-minute expenses,” she added.
Another bonus the RSCVA received from the tournament was promoting the Reno-area on regional and national television. The first two rounds of men’s games were broadcast on regional television, while the two championship game received national exposure.
David Chaffin, the WAC’s assistant commissioner in charge of media relations, said the number of credentials for this year’s tournament rose slightly from 2005.
“Obviously, Nevada’s winning helps,” Chaffin said. “Also, the media likes coming to Reno.”
He also said many media outlets not only reported on their own team’s games, but they also filed stories on the other rounds.