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When Discussing Sites For the Big Ten Basketball Tournament, Why Not Omaha?

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Andy Lyons

This week at the Big Ten's spring meetings, one of the topics discussed was the site of the Big Ten's basketball tournament. No doubt a reflection of criticism of the decision to play the 2017 tournament in Washington, DC at the Verizon Center. The primary criticism of the move seemed to come from fans of schools close to Indianapolis, of course.  Why would they want to give up the advantage of less travel?

There is something to be said about having events centrally located. It's almost a must for an event like the football championship game. Unless you want to play it on a home field, it's best to make as convenient as possible. (And the home site model for the football championship game has taken a beating with the Pac-12's decision to move their championship game to the new San Francisco 49ers stadium. Neutral sites allow for ticket sales to begin sooner, which has been a problem for the Pac-12 when the site isn't determined until a week before the game.)

But for basketball, rotating the game around seems to the Big Ten's plan.  They'll continue to play in Chicago and Indianapolis, and probably more often than not.  But Washington is in the mix.  So will New York City, before too long.  Where else?

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis wants Detroit in the mix as well. It makes sense, as the Palace of Auburn Hills seats over 23,000.  And it's still somewhat central.

Another city was mentioned this week as well.  It's not centrally located. In fact, it's on the edge as well.


(That whoosh you just heard was Creighton fans rushing to put tickets up for sale on StubHub.  Sorry guys, but since Creighton won't have any involvement with this event, you won't be able to have tickets to scalp. You'll have to find another way to make the payments on your Lexus.)

Omaha has shown a way to pull off big events like the College World Series or Olympic Swim Trials, so there's no doubt in my mind that it could be a success in Omaha. In fact, capacity at the CenturyLink Center (18,320) is slightly larger than Indianapolis' Bankers Life Fieldhouse (18,165).

Next week, Omaha will host the Big Ten Baseball Tournament, and should break all attendance records easily. If Nebraska is playing on the weekend, I wouldn't be surprised to see crowds over 10,000 in Omaha.  Baseball is a natural place for the Big Ten to play a baseball tournament. (OK, Husker fans... you ARE planning to help fill TD Ameritrade Park next week. Aren't you?)

But is it the right spot for Big Ten basketball?  As a Husker fan, I'd love to see the tournament in Omaha. But I do sympathize with Big Ten fans who criticize Washington as not being central.  Really, it should be played in Chicago and Indianapolis frequently.  Probably Detroit as well.  But if the Big Ten wants to move it around, then by all means, let's throw Omaha into the rotation.  Perhaps a rotation where every four years, it plays once in Chicago, once in Indianapolis, and then a couple of different cities.  Put Omaha in the mix, along with Detroit, Minneapolis, Cleveland, New York City, and Washington.

Why not? Should the Big Ten move the basketball tournament to more locations around the conference?