Tag Archives: MEAC Basketball Tournament

MEAC+Basketball

MEAC Commissioner: Norfolk is the Right Place for the Tournament

The Virginian-Pilot yesterday last week reported on final stats for the MEAC men’s basketball championship game - just over 7,100 paid seats of the Norfolk Scope’s 9,100-seat  capacity. Despite a tournament missing the defending champion Norfolk State Spartans and Hampton Pirates, and the first year was a great success according to MEAC Commissioner Dennis Thomas.

“Norfolk is the right place, and Scope is the right venue, and by that, I mean the right-sized venue.

We don’t need a 15,000-seat arena. We need about 9,000 seats. I’m very pleased.”

Norfolk is one of the most tourism friendly sites to host the tournament in years and has the potential to sell out the Scope Wednesday through Saturday if the conference partners with the right kind of events and groups. A concert with Aretha Franklin was a great attempt, but until the MEAC starts thinking Chris Brown and 2 Chainz on Thursday and Friday night, there will be no reason for younger MEAC fans to road trip and take over the city ala’ CIAA Week in Charlotte.

There are lessons the MEAC can take from the CIAA’s failure to create and promote their own events in the host city. The MEAC would enjoy an endless latitude to hold its same symposiums, community service initiatives and presentations, in addition to throwing its own official parties, step shows and alumni reunions in the areas hotels. The more events the conference controls, the more money, branding and goodwill they will reap from an age-diverse fan base.

The tournament is a good fit for the MEAC so long as Hampton and Norfolk State are competitive, but to reach its full potential, the MEAC will have to work over the next two years on its social brand to ensure that 9,100 seats soon becomes far too few.

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MEAC Basketball Tournament – Where’s a Good Ref Conspiracy When You Need One?

Morgan State University defeated Savannah State University 64-61 in overtime last night in the MEAC men’s basketball tournament, firmly securing a guaranteed 16th seed for the conference in the national tournament, regardless of which team finishes as the champion. The Bears, the MEAC’s fifth place team heading into the tournament holds the highest remaining seed left in the tournament, as the top four seeds – Norfolk State, North Carolina Central, Hampton and Savannah State – were each bounced within a 48-hour period.

Without suggesting that the MEAC could or should have engineered a better outcome for its best programs to survive and advance, there’s a feeling that a poor call or two in favor of Norfolk State or NCCU not only would have made for a better tournament, but a better opportunity at national exposure for the MEAC in the big dance?

Sure, there are matters of integrity, sportsmanship and the right for chemistry and talent to meet at a head in the biggest of moments. But if they do not find a way to become more appealing and relevant to a wider fan base and prospective athletes, Division I black college sports are hurtling towards an unceremonious end.

Norfolk State, last year’s MEAC champion earned the third national tournament 2-15 upset in the conference’s history last year. That momentum propelled the Spartans into the national spotlight as a black college team with the coaching, potential and budget to emerge as a legitimate top-25 team.

Then they were out of the MEAC basketball tournament, losing their first game in conference play this season, practically in a home game against Bethune-Cookman.

North Carolina Central, in just its second year of competition in the MEAC, emerged as one of the conference’s best programs under nationally-regarded head coach LeVelle Moton. At one point, this year, some considered NCCU as the ‘Black Duke.’

Then they lost, in anti-Duke fashion, to rival North Carolina A&T in the their first game.

There is fair game, and then there is a business. The top seeds in the MEAC tournament being eliminated may be fair and compelling to MEAC basketball fans, but in the eyes of national pundits and bracket watchers, this year’s MEAC champ will be little more than the beneficiary Norfolk State’s and North Carolina Central’s choke jobs. More than that, they will be the source of why people think the national tournament system is broken, and why conference realignment is necessary to make power conferences more powerful.

Short of moving to Division II or creating its own athletic association with the SWAC, CIAA and SIAC, the MEAC must choose between being a platform for school pride, or a thriving sports business model. If it wishes to simply survive, we should all keep calm and carry on with the distinct brand of HBCU March Madness.

But if it wants to thrive, I’m sure fans can quickly forget a bogus foul or three-second call if it means better representation in the national tournament.