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AAC Commissioner says conference exploring options for 2015 men's basketball tournament

By Tim Fontenault
On March 14, 2014

  • The Undergraduate Student Government External Affairs Committee discussed University relations with the state of CT government as well as relations with the Mansfield/Storrs town government. STEVE SWEENEY/The Daily Campus

MEMPHIS - The American Athletic Conference has yet to commit to playing the men's basketball tournament at the FedExForum in 2015, and the conference is exploring its options, according to Commissioner Mike Aresco.

There is a one-year option on Memphis after the inaugural men's basketball championship, but Aresco says that multiple cities and venues have expressed interest in hosting the tournament in the future.

"We've always been of the mind that we would be open-minded regarding the site for next year," Aresco said in the press conference before Friday's Semifinals. "It doesn't suggest that we're dissatisfied in any way with Memphis. We like it here."

Regardless of the success in Memphis, the conference has always planned on moving the tournament around, at least over the first decade of its existence.

"That could change," Aresco said, "but our feeling is we really need to plant our flag in various places around our footprint. It's really important for this conference to do that. We've got a Northeast presence, we've got a Southeast presence and we've got what I would call a Mississippi Valley, Texas presence. We've got a cluster of schools around Memphis, so I think it's important for us to do that."

As the local team team, Memphis was given the late game in Thursday's Quarterfinals in an attempt to draw a large crowd, but with a 72-53 loss to UConn, attendance for Friday's Semifinals and the Championship Game on Saturday is a question mark.

"The other thing that will be interesting to see is when the local team isn't playing and how we did," Aresco said. "And we did well at Mohegan (Sun Arena for the women's tournament) when we didn't have UConn playing on Friday. There were good crowds there.

"People enjoyed the venue, and that's the other question: Will people enjoy where we are? Will there be enough to do? Will we make it a great experience for student-athletes, our coaches, our administrators and our fans? Not just our local fans, but obviously people coming in from out of town who would like something to do while they're here and make it a festival atmosphere."

Aresco gave a timetable of anywhere from one month to six weeks to make a decision in order to finalize next year's plans ahead of the deadline laid out in the conference's contract.

"We've got to let the (Memphis) Grizzlies know what we're doing here, and we have to let Memphis know," Aresco said. "Contractually, we probably have a little bit longer to make that decision. But I think in fairness to the arena, in fairness to the city, we really should make it ahead of the contractual deadline, and that would be about a month to five or six weeks." 

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