Boys Sweet 16 final shifted to Sunday
I’ve spent the past three days sick as a monkey, so I wasn’t entirely sure I was clearheaded when I read that the KHSAA is making an historic change to the biggest game in its biggest event. For the first time, the championship game of the Boys Sweet Sixteen will be played on a Sunday in 2013 — March 10, to be exact.
The semifinals will be played on Saturday night, March 9, at Rupp Arena, with the championship set for 2 p.m. March 10. The schedule for the first three days of the tournament is unchanged.
The move was made to avoid a potential scheduling conflict with a University of Kentucky game on March 9. The conflict can’t be avoided, because (1) the Southeastern Conference is taking its sweet time about releasing its basketball schedule, and (2) Rupp Arena will host NCAA tournament games the following week.
The KHSAA says the move affects only the 2013 tournament, but you can bet that the affect on attendance for the tournament’s semifinals and finals will be closely watched and widely talked about. This is a move that has been brought up from time to time, but no one has before been inclined to tinker with tradition and/or a format that works.
Coaches, particularly those who think their teams could be in the final four, will love the move, talking about how the players will benefit from extra rest. And in his short tenure as KHSAA commissioner, Julian Tackett has repeatedly shown that he and the association are not beholden to tradition for tradition’s sake, which is a very good thing.
But here are two reasons why this move might not be such a good thing:
First, you can’t assume that your fan base will be willing to hold over in Lexington for one more day, particularly if you can’t give them a game they’re interested in. Many of them will have already been in town for four days and three nights, and now you want them to stay until late afternoon Sunday, then drive home and get back to work the next day.
And history tells us that if the game doesn’t hold the interest of those who’ve come from the far corners of the state, many of them don’t even stick around for the Saturday night game under the current format.
It’s all predicated on matchups, but it leaves the KHSAA at risk of having an embarrassingly small crowd at its signature event. In fact, a final four filled with teams that many fans don’t care about seeing might prompt many fans to flee before the semifinals, heading home in time to watch the Saturday afternoon UK game.
Second, holding any championship on a Sunday breaks a precedent that probably should be left unbroken. The KHSAA does not prohibit Sunday play, but it’s done very sparingly by member schools, and with good reason.
The endorsement of Sunday play from such a high level could give the impression that it’s all right to, for instance, schedule a basketball game on Sunday afternoon if you’d rather not play consecutive games on Friday and Saturday nights, or to extend weekend baseball and softball tournaments into Sundays.
Yes, this is a move made out of necessity — make no mistake: “possible schedule conflict” means that they already know there will be a UK home game on the date in question — and I’m not against change just because this is the way things have always been done. The tournament will almost certainly continue to thrive either way, but while I may be in the minority, but I don’t see this change as a change for the better.