FORT WAYNE – The ACAC’s athletic directors voted recently to no longer play the conference tournament semifinals and finals at Memorial Coliseum.
The tournament has been played at the Coliseum for 60 years.
Obviously, it was a very difficult decision, said Steve Thompson, Bluffton athletic director and ACAC president. We have had a wonderful experience as far as the conference is concerned at the Coliseum.
It will be different. We just thought it was the best thing to do to provide a better atmosphere for the kids.
The boys tournament has been played for 91 years, and the girls tournament for 40.
There had been ongoing discussions for more than a year about the fate of the basketball tournament at the Coliseum because of increasing costs and dwindling attendance.
At the end of the day, we noticed the crowds were getting smaller every year, and it was taxing on our athletes to go up there two or three times, Thompson said. You have to ask yourself is it financially worth it and feasible anymore.
The new format will remain similar to the old one with the early rounds being played at the schools after a blind draw.
The boys and girls championship games will now be played at South Adams with 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. tipoffs.
The Coliseum game times for the finals were 10 a.m. and noon.
We also looked at the opportunity to move it to school venues and put it at night so maybe we can get large crowds and play in front of packed houses, Thompson said.
Thompson said there may be an opportunity to rotate the host site for the finals in future years.
It’s another change for the ACAC, which will see Garrett exit this year and be replaced by Jay County. Leo will leave in 2015 to join a new conference.
Coliseum general manager Randy Brown said he was disappointed to see the ACAC tournament leave but understood the decision.
Brown said he worked with the conference to keep the tournament coming back, including an offer to play host to the finals only.
They spent some additional time considering that, but just decided the reality is overall they were just putting off the inevitable, Brown said.
Brown said the ACAC tournament attendance had a slight uptick this past season.