Bahamas seeking bigger and better event

On Saturday at the Atlantis Hotel and Casino on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, Richmond will play Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech will face Mississippi State.

It’s the first major college basketball doubleheader at the famed hotel. The game management for the event is being handled by a staff from Central Florida and the advisor to the hotel for the event is Conference USA associate commissioner Chris Woolard. He also is the one who is sponsoring legislation through C-USA to get the rules changed to allow the Bahamas to host an exempted eight-team tournament, as early as 2011.

The amendment is asking for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas to be added to the list of countries with the United States (territories Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are a part of this designation), Canada and Mexico to host basketball tournaments. Canada and Mexico were added to the list in 2007 on a similar provision. The Atlantis is hoping that the legislation passes at the January convention.

The SEC is also a co-sponsor of the legislation, but Woolard is the main consultant. He said Friday he was flown down by the Atlantis Hotel in May and again this week to run the event.

There is no TV deal for the doubleheader Saturday and currently no TV deal in place for a future tournament.

“They had a consultant calling around to conferences to come down to the Atlantis,’’ Woolard said by phone from the Bahamas. “For us (C-USA) to have quality opponents, we need to be playing in neutral sites, not going on the road in buy games like Southern Miss at Cal. You’re not going to win those games all the time [Southern Miss did beat Cal]. We need to be at the best neutral-site events, and with the president of the Atlantis behind this and the resources, I think it can be one of the best events.’’

Woolard said he wanted to bring in the UCF game management team (the Knights play Miami Saturday in Sunrise, Fla., so they were free) to ensure that it would be a “first-time big event.’’ Woolard said the four teams were to receive a reception dinner Friday night and be treated as if this were a major pre-conference tournament.

Woolard said that hosting a tourney in a casino shouldn’t be an issue for the NCAA considering all of the events that go on at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas (early-season and conference tournaments). The Orleans Arena does have a separate entrance so that fans, players and coaches don’t have to go through the casino to get to the arena. Woolard said the arena at the Atlantis has a similar setup.