Following the worst competitive men’s basketball seasons for USC and UCLA in a long while, the Pac-12 Conference completed its abandonment of Los Angeles by officially announcing Tuesday the news that broke last week: The league is so done with Hollywood air kisses.
It wants showgirls and neon. You know, real passion and meaning.
A day after announcing the women’s conference championship was moving to Seattle and KeyArena for three years, Commissioner Larry Scott said the men’s tournament is going to be played for the next three seasons at Las Vegas’s MGM Grand Hotel’s Garden Arena, despite the fact that it never has hosted a basketball game.
The 2013 tourney is March 13-16 and all games will be televised among ESPN, FOX and the Pac-12 Networks.
This is an exciting opportunity for us to create a new, dynamic atmosphere for our schools, our student-athletes and our fans, Scott said in a press release. Las Vegas is one of the most exciting destinations in the country . . . we expect the stature and energy of the Pac-12 Tournament to continue to flourish.
The end of the league’s 11-year agreement with Fox Sports Network, which insisted the tourney be held at Staples Center where the net has its studios, was the catalyst for change. Scott said a “variety of cities” bid for the men’s gig, including Los Angeles, Seattle and Salt Lake City. But with more than 40 million visitors annually, Vegas has a chance of drawing more for Pac-12 hoops from customers on their way to casino bathrooms than Staples did intentionally.
Last week Vegas hosted the conference championship tourneys for the Mountain West, Western Athletic and West Coast conferences, using the Thomas and Mack arena on the University of Nevada-Las Vegas campus and another casino gym, the Orleans.
Since 1991, the promotions company Las Vegas Events has produced, presented or supported more than 600 events, including the Las Vegas Bowl, NASCAR Sprint Cup and Craftsman Truck Series, Aviation Nation, NHRA Drag Racing, Rolex FEI World Cup Finals, U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling and Judo and their signature New Years Eve production, Americas Party.
Under the Pac-12s new 12-year media rights agreement worth $3 billion, ESPN and FOX will rotate each year the championship game. They will each carry a quarterfinal game, semifinal and the championship game during those years. ESPN will have the rights in 2013. Every other game of the tournament will be televised nationally by the Pac-12 Networks, which will launch in August.
Perhaps the most famous event in the history of the Garden Arena was the 1998 heavyweight championship fight between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson, in which the latter was disqualified for biting off a portion of Holyfield’s ear.
The sporting tradition will be tough to top, but the Pac-12 is ready for the challenge.