Saturday’s Final Four games will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium, a football stadium. This will agitate some who don’t want college basketball’s most important games taking place in football venues. And it’s a silly thing to complain about.
Playing in large stadiums allows more fans an in-person experience, which is a good thing. It makes it easier for students and alumni of all four participating teams to secure those tickets. It’s been 20 years since the Final Four wasn’t played in a dome. It’s been played in a football stadium since 2009. Over time, a few problems have emerged. But the positives far outpace the negatives.
The strongest argument the detractors is that the expanse hurts the quality of play, particularly jump shots. This criticism came to a head after a particularly woeful UCONN-Butler final in 2011. Five Thirty Eight, however, crunched the numbers and found that the problem has been overstated.
In fact, one of the venues that brought on the coldest shooting was NRG Stadium, site of last year’s Final Four in Houston. Last year’s Final Four, you know, the one that culminated with back-to-back deep three-pointers in perhaps the most thrilling championship game of all-time? How can one cling to that argument after what Villanova and North Carolina treated us to?
They say big stadiums is nothing but a money grab. If that’s a sticking point, well, I have some bad news about the NCAA as a whole. To argue this is to jump feet-first onto the slipperiest slope.
They’ll point out, accurately, that many of the seats offer miserable views of the action. This, of course, is not breaking news. Patrons know that going in and weigh the sightline versus other factors, like atmosphere and ability to witness something with their own eyes. The bare minimum of research yields accurate representations of what the view from each seat looks like. Only fools go in blind.
The extra 50,000 people above the 20,000 that would pack a basketball-only arena aren’t total idiots. They know what they’re getting into and have made an informed choice to attend anyway. More people are thrilled at being in the building than are dismayed they need binoculars to see the court or are relegated to watching on a video screen.
More fans is a good thing. A bigger tent allows more people to make the choice to attend. Even if 10 percent of those 50,000 extras are unsatisfied, they are greatly outnumbered by those are pleased with their choice to attend.
Moreover, the in-person crowd is insignificant compared to those who watch on television. Playing in a football stadium has no negative impact on the television product. Heck, the raised court improves the watching experience. Viewers at home can see what the coaches, seated on stools above the bench, are doing at all times.
The Final Four is great no matter where it’s played. The NCAA intends to play it in football stadiums through 2021. For financial reasons, they’re in no rush to go back to the pre-dome days — and they shouldn’t be. The current situation is fine.