Ruston and Hawai’i not good choices
Appeal Sports Writer
I thought it was a misprint when I read that Louisiana Tech and Hawai’i had been awarded the next two WAC post-season baseball tournaments.
From a financial point of view, I think these are bad choices. Unlike basketball, baseball teams pay their own freight to conference tournaments, and neither Louisiana Tech or Hawai’i are cheap places to get to.
Having the tournament in Ruston would mean that four teams would have to fly there. New Mexico State certainly could bus to save some dollars if it qualifies. Five teams would have to fly to Hawai’i, and that’s not a cheap ticket no matter where you are flying from.
I talk to Jeff Hurd, the senior associate commissioner of the WAC several times during the school year, and one of the things I remember him saying is that from a financial point of view he thought it was best if the tournament stayed in the West because more teams could bus.
Hurd, who pointed out that said the Louisiana Tech and Hawai’i bids are subject to board approval, said that there has been a policy shift in the WAC.
“The philosophy is to move it around to different venues; competitive fairness is the thought,” Hurd said. “Our far away schools would never have a chance to host otherwise.”
Honestly, I have a problem with Ruston more than I do Hawai’i. The folks at the WAC have always talked about opportunities for fans to do something other than watch games when they look at sites for championships.
If that’s the case, why would you let Tech host anything? The folks at Tech are great, but there is absolutely nothing to do in Ruston. Shreveport has casinos and entertainment, but it’s 40 miles away. At least in Honolulu, there is plenty to do when your team isn’t playing, and some families may use the tournament as a chance to go on vacation.
Hurd said he hopes that both sites will be able to get enough sponsorships to be able to funnel money back to the participating schools. I would guess that both Tech and Hawai’i have had to dangle some discounted hotel rates and ground transportation to secure the bids.
Hurd said that all bids submitted to the conference are confidential and won’t be released.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the WAC should just alternate between Fresno State and Nevada. Reno is probably the most central on-campus site.
The Fresno State facility is probably the best in the conference and seats 5,000. Nevada is a great place, because not only is the field top notch, but there is plenty to do while you are visiting (gamble, golf, entertainment).
Honestly, I don’t think there is as much to the homefield advantage in baseball compared to basketball or football. There aren’t thousands of maniacs screaming at baseball games. The biggest crowd last year at Fresno was about 1,500.
The only disadvantage on the road is that you aren’t sleeping in your own bed, and that’s about it.
I think the WAC either needs to rotate it to EVERYBODY or put it in places that are convenient for the bulk of the teams.
• In keeping with that philosophy, the WAC has moved the volleyball tournament to New Mexico State and Hawai’i over the next two years. Hawai’i also is in line to host softball in the next couple of years.
I sure hope the home schools support these tournaments, because you aren’t going to get a lot of out-of-town fan attendance. This isn’t an angry journalist talking, it’s fact.
• Hurd also said that the WAC will indeed explore options for a neutral site for men’s and women’s basketball, but wasn’t sure if the conference would be able to accomplish it.
He did say that Sacramento, Las Vegas and Salt Lake have been discussed. Arco Arena would be a great site, but Hurd pointed out that renting an NBA arena for five days is costly.
Vegas would be a great site, but can the WAC get $20,000 a school which is the minimal going rate these days. The Orleans Arena has approached the WAC in the past, according to commissioner Karl Benson. Whether the WAC tournament would bring in enough people from out-of-town remains to be seen. Would the people of Las Vegas support it? That also remains to be seen.
Certainly Las Vegas has a lot to do, and a 6,000-seat arena is probably big enough to host a tournament.
Let’s face it, the way things stand now, the only schools that will usually bid for it are teams that think they have a chance to win, and want that homecourt advantage. It’s almost like buying a championship.