Julian Tackett, the commissioner of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, informed athletic directors around the 4th Region Thursday the KHSAA would be breaking from tradition and hold the 2014 girls’ and boys’ regional basketball tournaments at area high schools, instead of Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.
Some athletic directors in the region have raised issues over the past few years about holding the tournaments at WKU, including the cost of parking at the arena and the financial benefits Western accrues from the tournament. The general sentiment is the money should be dispersed among the schools participating in the tournaments.
“There are good points and bad points about having it at Western Kentucky University and there are good points and bad points about having it at (area) high schools,” said Bob Blair, athletic director at Barren County High School. “The way this usually works is it works in cycles. It’s been at Western, I think, for 10 years and then someone will say it is a high school event and it should be at a high school. After it is at high schools for five or 10 years, someone will say this is a big event and it should be at Western.”
Barren County, which hosted the regional tournament in 2003, the last time it wasn’t at WKU, will host this year’s boys’ tournament March 5-6 and March 10-11. The girls’ tournament will be the week before at Allen County-Scottsville, March 3-4 and March 7-8. ACS hosted the girls’ tournament in 2001.
Blair cited atmosphere as one benefit for moving the tournaments back to high school locations. “It is a high school event and the gyms are a lot more personable. Fans are right there on the floor,” Blair said. “When you’re at Western, it is such a big arena that if you don’t have a big crowd, they don’t have the feel of a basketball tournament.”
In his email to athletic directors, Tackett wrote, “In this particular consideration, there are obviously three schools of thought with nearly equal numbers of member schools falling into those thoughts. There are a group of schools that feel the event is best served at a local school host, from both a financial standpoint and various other aspects including the cost to fans. There is also a group of a similar number that would prefer to play at WKU regardless of cost, attributing their support to a different but equally understandable set of factors. There also exists a third group, that frankly, appear to not be passionate either way.
“I have looked at the information given by WKU in the discussion meeting and an independent analysis done by one of the ADs, as well as factored all of the opinions of the schools. Although I found the cost analysis done within the region to be somewhat inaccurate (specifically the publicly stated economic benefit to each of the schools), nonetheless the information shed light on most of the issues. While I think some of the internal charges being charged by WKU are negotiable and may simply need on campus collaboration of administrators and the like, it is of particular concern to me the charges that are being passed directly to the fans (parking, concession pricing, etc.) that while not impacting the bottom line payout to the schools, do have an impact on the overall tournament satisfaction.”
Craig Casady, the athletic director at Glasgow High School, falls into the school of thought that would like to keep the tournaments at WKU.
“I was in the group that wanted to keep the tournaments at Western, and my justification was my trips to Western to watch the teams play in the past,” Cassady said. “It was a treat for myself and I know the guys playing in the games, it was a treat for them, too.
“I think one thing our kids look forward to is being able to go to Western and playing at the university. Not all regions have the opportunity to go to a college campus to play. And since it is right there, why shouldn’t we utilize it. When it is all said and done, I don’t think you’re going to pay that much more (to have the tournaments at WKU). It will all balance out.”
Cassady also pointed out that playing at Western could be an advantage for girls teams in the region. “From a coaches’ standpoint, I think it is a big advantage to play the region at Western simply because we host the region there and the state tournament will be there. And because one of our teams will come out of the region to play in the state tournament, it is like a home-field advantage for that team. These other teams will not have that advantage.”
Cassady also voiced a concern about whether having the regional tournaments at area high schools gives the host school an advantage. The 2014 girls’ tournament will be at Allen County-Scottsville and the Lady Patriots are considered by most coaches to be one of the top teams in the region.
“We will have to see how it goes,” Cassady said. “But right now, I would be in favor of moving it back to Western.”
Tackett closed his email stating he hoped “a more unified consensus can be achieved within the region for future years.”