LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Dome sweet: no.
The NCAA tournament just improved. ESPN.com's Andy Katz reports there will no longer be NCAA tournament games held in football stadiums prior to the Final Four -- or at least for the venues that have already hosted regionals in the past. This practice has been in place for two decades, implemented so future Final Four sites could be rewarded/have a dress rehearsal of sorts for the year prior to their championship-hosting duties.
So, for example, Cowboys Stadium hosted a regional last season explicitly because the 2014 Final Four will be held there. This protocol is ending however, unless a new football arena is rewarded a Final Four. Here's the report, with additional information on upcoming Final Four bids.
The NCAA will have a portal available in July on its website for Final Four sites to make proposals for 2017-2020; a decision on sites for those years will be made later in 2014. The NCAA won't put any restrictions on the proposals, meaning that a city that doesn't have a dome can make an offer and the NCAA will discuss it. The NCAA has made one decision on domes -- it is done with them in regional finals. Mark Lewis, the NCAA's vice president in charge of championships, said using domes for regionals was a trial run for future Final Fours. But the upcoming Final Four sites have already had the dry run, so the NCAA doesn't need to do this anymore. Lewis said regional finals should be in arenas, and that will be the plan going forward. The next three Final Fours are in Arlington, Texas, in 2014; Indianapolis in 2015; and Houston in 2016.
It's fantastic news, really. The domes were never selling out and they create a lackluster atmosphere compared to what the comforts of a true basketball arena can provide. The NCAA has shown in the past it has the ability to adapt and change -- it often just takes a good while to get there. This philosophy should have been carried out nearly a decade ago, but better late than never.
It's also interesting to note that any arena can make itself available for a Final Four going forward. There's a clamoring among plenty of college hoops fans to get the sport's ultimate weekend back inside a traditional venue -- which hasn't happened since 1996 -- but ultimately that would be a shocker. Truth is, the Final Four can easily and always accommodate upward of 60,000 fans and so that makes it a financial boon for the NCAA and the schools making it to championship weekend.
There aren't the attendance concerns at the Final Four as there are for the regionals. And while it'd be nostalgic, romantic and a throwback to get the Final Four in a true basketball venue, more than likely those days are forever over. The sport is too popular to justify getting that radical.