Final Four Goes Wide

The National Collegiate Athletic Association attempted to increase attendance to the men’s basketball tournament with unique configurations at Ford Field in Detroit and at Reliant Stadium in Houston, but even with good intentions, the results were not praised.

The madness that is the NCAA men’s basketball tourney is often hosted by stadiums, but the hardwood floors are traditionally set up in the end zone and a makeshift arena is created between the bleachers and some curtains. This year, the host stadiums had the courts located at the 50-yard line and the entire venue was utilized.

The NCAA said the new setup would help more students get close to the action and keep prices reasonable. The same configuration is expected to be used for the 2009 Final Four.

The NCAA Midwest Regional at Ford Field had a record 57,000 attendance March 28th, and the subsequent matchup between Davidson and Kansas sold 57,500 tickets. But some visitors and players were not fans.

"It’s an awful setup," Kansas student Brandon Childres said. "We thought we were getting awesome seats. But we’re 50 yards from the court, and we didn’t know that would be the case."

The court was raised 27 inches above the ground, causing some players to question whether they’d get injured diving for balls. Davidson’s Stephen Curry was concerned about depth perception at the vast stadium. Some fans complained they were too far from the court and said it’s difficult to create intimacy at a basketball game played in a football venue.

However, more fans were expected to attend the regional sites – Detroit, Charlotte, N.C.; Houston and Phoenix – than at any time in the event’s 70-year history.