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Conference USA Eyes Cowboys' Facility for Hoops Tourney

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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

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In true Dallas Cowboys style, "The Star in Frisco" is 91 acres of spare-no-expense opulence - a $1.5 billion complex that contains the team's corporate headquarters, two practice fields, a 12,000-seat indoor football stadium with interior and exterior video boards and an entertainment district with restaurants, shops and a hotel.

Could it be the site of the 2018 Conference USA men's and women's basketball tournaments? A vote by athletic directors later this month will decide.

Finding a convenient tournament location for a conference whose membership sprawls from West Texas to South Florida to Southeastern Virginia has been a challenge for C-USA.

Birmingham, Ala., and El Paso, Texas - the last two cities to host the tournament - have also submitted bids, according to sources. Birmingham has hosted the past three tournaments; El Paso hosted in 2014.

Although Birmingham offered a relatively central location, attendance dwindled the past two years after the host school, Alabama-Birmingham, was eliminated.

El Paso, home of UTEP , is on the western edge of the league, 2,000 miles from Norfolk and 551 miles from its closest conference neighbor in San Antonio.

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What the Cowboys' facility lacks in proximity - at least for many of the league's schools and their fans - it makes up for in novelty and in "wow" factor, one advocate said. It's an outside-the-box option for a conference trying to create excitement surrounding its tournaments.

Although it's located about 40 minutes from the University of North Texas, the Cowboys' facility would also be a more neutral site than either Birmingham or El Paso, which also hosted the tournament in 2011.

Both UAB and UTEP used separate arenas for the men's and women's games through the first two rounds. The Cowboys' facility could be configured to put two courts on the playing field, according to a source with knowledge of the proposal.

An announcement could be made before the conference's spring meetings in Destin, Fla., on May 22-24. The selection of the athletic directors is subject to approval by conference presidents.

It's unclear whether the conference will award bids for just 2018 or additional years. C-USA commissioner Judy McLeod said in March that one site or multiple sites could be announced for as many as three years.

"We would ultimately like to get into some type of rhythm where we know two, maybe three years out, but it hasn't set out that way," MacLeod said. "That's the goal."

Several athletic directors contacted directly or through spokespersons declined to comment. A call to the Cowboys' public relations department was not returned.

ODU has expressed interest in hosting the tournament, but with the MEAC tournament at Scope, it lacks a viable second arena to go with the Constant Center.

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May 6, 2017
 
 
 

 

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