January 24, 2012
UNC Asheville, the Big South Conference and the Southern Conference have come to an agreement that will allow the Bulldog men's basketball team to play the BSC championship game in Kimmel Arena on the UNC Asheville campus at noon, Saturday, March 3, should they earn that opportunity. The Bulldogs would host the title game if they are the highest remaining seed.
UNC Asheville Chancellor Anne Ponder said of the agreement, "Thanks to an ongoing negotiation between the conferences and the university, as well as the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission, we were able to agree on a scheduling change that would free up Kimmel Arena for the possible championship game."
Ponder also said, "Throughout this process, we have attempted to both honor our existing agreement to host the Southern Conference Women’s Tournament in Kimmel Arena as well as to provide a home court advantage for our men’s team if they are successful in reaching the championship game. We are extremely pleased with this outcome, and we sincerely appreciate the efforts of both conferences to work with us."
Under the revised schedule, if the UNC Asheville men’s basketball team were to advance to the Big South Conference championship game, the Southern Conference has agreed to move the game currently scheduled for noon Saturday, March 3, in Kimmel Arena to the Justice Center, to free up the Kimmel Arena for the BSC championship game.
Southern Conference Commissioner John Iamarino, said, "We are pleased that a solution could be found that works for all parties. The Southern Conference is excited about its return to Asheville and the crucial role that UNC Asheville has played throughout the process to make that possible. The potential now exists for an even greater week of college basketball."
Big South Commissioner Kyle B. Kallander said, "Janet Cone has worked tirelessly for months to achieve a resolution that is satisfactory to all parties. We are very appreciative of her efforts, which have led to the gratifying outcome that the UNC Asheville student-athletes will be able to play on their home court if they host the championship game."
Ben VanCamp, executive director of the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission, said, "I would like to thank our partners at UNC Asheville, Big South and SoCon for collaborating on a solution to hopefully showcase two conference championships, bringing together talented athletes and enthusiastic fans from both conferences for a week of outstanding basketball. Hosting both championships will shine a national spotlight on Asheville and has the potential to have a tremendous impact on our local community."
Bruce Peterson, UNC Asheville Board of Trustees’ appointed chair of the athletic committee said, "I'm thrilled that our chancellor and athletic director have engaged so productively with the Big South, SoCon and the greater Asheville community. They have done an extraordinary job of bringing our community partners together for the benefit of all of us, including our students."
This past fall, the Big South Conference CEOs approved a new, combined basketball tournament format beginning with the 2012-13 season. The Big South Conference will play their championship game at a neutral site that would be identified well in advance, assuring that a conflict will not occur in future years.
Below are some additional facts concerning the process that led to the agreement.
Q: When did the Big South’s Council of CEOs (Chancellors and Presidents) meet to discuss the possibility of allowing the UNC Asheville men’s basketball team to play the championship game on campus, should they earn that opportunity?
A: The CEOs met by conference call during the week of January 16. They unanimously agreed to host the Big South tournament in Kimmel Arena, should our team earn the right to host it. That gave UNC Asheville the opportunity to negotiate with SoCon officials to see if there was flexibility to move some games and to free up Kimmel.
Q: What about the timing of UNC Asheville’s appeal?
A: For quite some time, the Big South was considering a neutral site for 2012, which is what many other conferences do. When it did not materialize, UNC Asheville began to look for further options. The university was working on this all along, as the Big South Commissioner has affirmed.
It was only when it became impossible to work through informal channels that the university made the formal appeal to the Big South CEOs. In hindsight, we could have, and perhaps should have, appealed sooner. We were trying to be a good partner as a member of the Big South Conference. But it has worked out well in the end, and the Big South has approved a neutral site format for 2013 and beyond.
Q: Why did you agree to waive the championship?
A: The Big South Commissioner indicated that he did not want UNC Asheville to have any games in Asheville because of the presence of the SoCon Tournament. However, he indicated that if the university did not push to host the championship game (if we were to earn that right) he would agree to allow us to host the quarter- and semi-finals only. Faced with that choice, we chose more basketball. We should never have been faced with that choice as it is not consistent with Big South policies.
Q: How did this agreement take shape?
A: The university knew there was a potential for a scheduling conflict in Kimmel, but we also knew the Justice Center would be available. When the Big South indicated they did not want to play tournament games in Justice, we began working with both conferences to seek a solution. The CEOs learned very late that one of the reasons the Big South Commissioner did not want to play in Asheville was because another conference was playing in town that same week.
The SoCon leadership has always been willing to work with us, and we were in discussions with them for some time. All along we were confident that there would be a resolution so that we could both uphold our tournament commitments.