Herald: Hoops Beanpot Idea Stirring - UMass Athletics

Herald: Hoops Beanpot Idea Stirring

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The Boston Herald has a story on the idea of playing a Basketball Beanpot.

Tonight and next Monday, college hockey will take center stage on the Boston sports scene. Alumni and fans of Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and Harvard will pack into the Garden as the schools battle for city bragging rights in the Beanpot.

It's a great tradition that leads to a simple question: Why doesn't basketball have a similar event?

"I think in the state of Massachusetts you have to do some untraditional stuff just to keep the fans interested and give them kind of a special day," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. "Massachusetts is such a strong professional sports state that you have to keep people's interest by doing some different things on the college level."

Coaches all-in on starting hoops event
Schools stirring 'Pot
By Dan Duggan / N.E. Basketball  |   Monday, February 7, 2011  |  http://www.bostonherald.com  |  College Basketball

Tonight and next Monday, college hockey will take center stage on the Boston sports scene.

Alumni and fans of Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and Harvard will pack into the Garden as the schools battle for city bragging rights in the Beanpot.

It's a great tradition that leads to a simple question: Why doesn't basketball have a similar event?

In conversations with the coaches of the six Division 1 programs in Massachusetts -- the four Beanpot schools, UMass and Holy Cross -- it's clear each would welcome a local basketball tournament.

"I would certainly be in favor of anything like that," Harvard's Tommy Amaker said. "I think this is a great community for it, a great town, and there's a number of schools that would generate some kind of energy and interest."

Each of the six coaches was hired within the past five years, and in each of their introductory press conference they spoke about exciting their fan bases. Obviously to do that the first ingredient is winning, but most have had successful seasons recently, and attendance and support still lags.

"I think in the state of Massachusetts you have to do some untraditional stuff just to keep the fans interested and give them kind of a special day," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. "Massachusetts is such a strong professional sports state that you have to keep people's interest by doing some different things on the college level."

The inaugural Tip-Off Classic on Dec. 4 at the Garden, which featured a Northeastern-Drexel and BC-UMass doubleheader, was a step in the right direction. But a round-robin or mini-tournament featuring the six Massachusetts schools would be even more appealing. The teams already play each other in nonconference games, so a formal event would just give the matchups more structure and meaning.

First-round games could be played at campus sites, with the goal to have the semifinals and finals at the Garden like the hockey Beanpot. Garden president John Wentzell said he is open to the idea.

A model for this event would be the Big 5, which has pitted five of Philadelphia's Division 1 schools against one another annually since 1955.

BC's Steve Donahue and BU's Pat Chambers grew up in the Philadelphia area and were assistants at Big 5 schools. They've seen firsthand how the tradition has given college basketball a presence in a city as obsessed with professional sports as Boston.

"Naturally I grew up on basketball, and (the Big 5) is probably why I grew up on college basketball," Donahue said. "It's just an incredible gathering of different fans that all enjoy the idea of it and obviously root hard for their team. It's another way to help college basketball stay relevant in the city of Philly. I think if we did the same thing here it would help this area as well."

The biggest obstacle for a basketball Beanpot would be scheduling.

A neutral-site game would cost a school a home date. That would impact season-ticket packages, which are a major source of revenue.

Northeastern's Bill Coen has given the concept the most thought. He believes locking in a date, the way the hockey Beanpot has the first two Mondays in February, would be crucial so coaches could schedule around the event.

Another issue is a commitment to this event could preclude teams from playing in other early-season tournaments, many of which are in warm locations, feature high-profile competition and have national television exposure.

"I think that's pretty much the major hang-up, is when we would do it," Coen said. "It's a great idea. The obstacles are just everybody's schedules are so different and complex. There is no easy solution."

There was a basketball Beanpot from 1962-76, but it fizzled. To start a new tournament from scratch would be a major undertaking and could take a few years to get off the ground.

It would be crucial to secure sponsors and a TV deal. It wouldn't be easy, but to these coaches, the benefits are worth the effort.

"It has to start somewhere because everyone is going to say the tradition thing. But somebody started (the hockey Beanpot) somewhere," Chambers said. "We have to have the courage and the guts to start this and stick with it, and let's get somebody to promote it and let's do something charitable with it. It really could take off."

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