- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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You can call it cold-hearted and sterile. You can call it egalitarian and celebratory. Whatever you call it, it's a fact: The NCAA has long since decided that it is much better off hosting its most important event -- the Final Four of the men's NCAA tournament -- in very large stadiums.
These gigantic structures are football buildings built on the back of the NFL's Buy n Large-sized popularity. They house many people (which means more money and more opportunity for fans to get in the building) and many media members (which, let's be honest, we could all do without) and generally they do a pretty good job of hosting Final Fours. These buildings are also awkwardly cavernous, vaguely clinical, and basically just not at all designed for basketball.
These are the facts. They have become accepted. They may or may not be ideal, but they make sense.
Which is why this story, from ESPN.com's Andy Katz, caught me by such surprise Thursday night:
The NCAA and the men's basketball selection committee have discussed the possibility of moving the Final Four out of a dome and into an arena in a major metropolitan city.
Oh, yes, you read that right. The NCAA is actually considering moving its understandable-if-not-particularly-ideal Final Four host sites to -- gasp -- actual basketball arenas. And not because the NCAA basketball folks are suddenly feeling like it would just be nice to see a Final Four game in a modern building designed by experts to house basketball, or in a charming old fieldhouse complete with sunbeam streams. No, the NCAA -- specifically, vice president for championships Mark Lewis -- is at least somewhat concerned about geography:
Lewis told ESPN.com on Thursday that when he was hired earlier this year, he took out a United States map and saw that both coasts are largely left off from hosting the Final Four.
"I don't know where this will lead, if anywhere, but the right thing is to sit down and have these conversations and see if we want our championship in more than eight cities or do we like playing exclusively in domes," Lewis said.
"None of the cities where we play our championship is named New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago or Miami," Lewis said. "We don't play on a campus. We play in professional football arenas."
I don't care if the reasons (attention, spectacle, footprint, money) are essentially the same as what got the Final Four into large domes in the first place. I don't care if the potential flaws are glaringly obvious. (A lot of fans could end up being priced out of a 17,000-seat stadium more easily than a 70,000-seat stadium, at least on the secondary market. The ancillary Final Four events -- conventions, ceremonies, outdoor concerts, "fan experiences" and big tents full of T-shirts and comestibles -- may lack for space.) I don't care if the idea is just that: an idea. I don't care if the chances of this happening are incredibly slim. (They are.)
Honestly, it's just nice to hear the idea discussed. Broached. Bandied about. It's refreshing. Maybe it will never happen, maybe it can't happen, maybe it doesn't make enough sense.
But come on. Final Four in a fieldhouse? A guy can hope.