About BTiell Sports Reports

Dr. Bonnie Tiell writes a monthly column for the Tiffin Advertiser Tribune Sports Department (http://www.advertiser-tribune.com/). This blog archives each column and dates back to the 2008 Olympic Academic Experience in Beijing, China. Check out the Blog Archives to read more. Check out info about the TU Olympic Academic Experience at http://www.tuolympics.blogspot.com/ and contact Dr. Tiell at btiell@tiffin.edu

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

March 15, 2009 March madness heads to motor city

The slogan for the Detroit Metro Sports Commission is “where champions are made and championships are played”. The Pistons won the NBA World Title in 2004 and the Red Wings captured their 11th Stanley Cup in 2008. Detroit also hosted the Super Bowl a few years ago when Nate Washington earned his first championship ring with his old team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. In a few weeks the NCAA Men’s Final Four will flow in and out of the Motor City.

Friends of my husband and I all love to travel to Detroit and Comerica Park in support of the Tigers. We love to stop in at Nemo’s Saloon which was voted a few years ago by Sports Illustrated as third among best sports bars in the country. Nemo’s and the Tigers have been about the only reason we ever head to or through Detroit except for a special event such as next month’s tournament action. The NCAA Finals Four games will be played at Ford Field, the NFL stadium which established its basketball presence in 2003 when it hosted a world record 78,129 crowd for an NCAA game between Kentucky and Michigan State. Ford Field has 105 public restrooms, six first aid stations, and nine ATM machines, just in case you were interested.

Searching the internet, I found we could get a great travel package for $3850 which includes VIP seating for practices, hotel accommodations, two seats behind the basket for the semi-finals and finals, access to pre-game parties, a duffle bag, and an official NCAA 2009 Final Four game program. Or, we could just get a ticket to the NCAA fan experience for a cool $75 apiece. (Actually, I believe the two of us actually just walked into the fan experience for free when Indy hosted the men’s final four a few years ago!).

Several Tiffin University sports management students will have free access to the NCAA tournament in a few weeks as official volunteers. Steve Feeman interned for the Detroit Sports Commission last summer and Danielle Peterson is making her second Final Four appearance. Peterson worked in “Hoop City” when the women’s final four was in Cleveland a few years ago.

Speaking of Cleveland, for the past few years I’ve headed to Quicken Loans arena during spring break to hit the MAC tournament. Those lesser-known conference championship games are where the un-paralleled excitement of March Madness begins with genuine passion for huge stakes on the line. I watched the overtime game between Ball State and Central Michigan on the men’s side before catching Buffalo and Kent State. Buffalo advanced to the finals eventually losing to the Zips of Akron who is the only team representing the MAC in the NCAA field of 65.

That same night when I returned home to surf the television for more conference play-off games, I caught a bit of the Syracuse Orangemen who triumphed in a sixth overtime against U Conn (the second longest NCAA game in history). Syracuse needed another overtime victory over West Virginia before making it to the Big East Finals where they eventually lost to Louisville. Compared to the MAC’s single tournament berth, the Big East Conference has seven teams advancing. No doubt when March Madness kicks off, I’ll be rooting for that tiny MAC school when the Zips face Gonzaga in Portland.

On the women’s side, only Ball State is representing the MAC in the Big Dance. Ball State earned their first ever NCAA tournament berth with an upset over top seeded Bowling Green who was snubbed by the selection committee despite an impressive 28-4 regular season and four straight MAC regular season championships to their credit. Ball State faces the mighty Pat Summitt and her legendary Tennessee Lady Vols in first round action on – go figure the irony – Bowling Green State University’s home court.

Besides rooting for the MAC teams I might have to support anyone playing against Oklahoma which means Prairie View in round one. The Sooners star player (Courtney Paris) promised to re-pay her scholarship if her team doesn’t win the national championship. Oklahoma is ranked second in the country and the $64,000 estimated payback will probably be made in deferred installments after she establishes herself in the WNBA. (Get this – the minimum WNBA rookie salary is $35,000 compared to around $450,000 in the NBA).

Speaking of money, it is amazing how much of it is spread around when it comes to March Madness. As amateurs, the players get nothing beyond their scholarship amounts and maybe a few extra looks by NBA and WNBA scouts. Many coaches, on the other hand, have compensation packages tied to advancing in the tournament. Two years ago, USA Today reported that the average salary of the coaches in the tournament was $800,000 with almost half earning over a million dollars. Advertisers are paying over a million for a 30-second spot and CBS has shelled out a cool six billion to the NCAA for 11-years of media rights.

Maybe one day Tiffin University will have one of their alumni in the coaching ranks at a Final Four tournament as more sports management students are finding employment in the college ranks. This year, graduating senior Kylene Spiegel will be in St Louis for a NCAA coaching workshop associated with the women’s tournament. Next year she will be a graduate assistant for a Division III school in Michigan.

Ky will be one of few from Tiffin who will be in St. Louis along with the women's coaches from Berg and TU. Perhaps more basketball fanatics will shy away from the popular live broadband video streams and actually travel the short distance to Detroit next month. There’s nothing like the men’s Final Four where for many teams, March Madness quickly becomes April sadness.

Stay Tune….the road to Detroit and St. Louis is bound to have a few entertaining side stories to talk about in April along with more sport surprises this spring.

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