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Pittsburgh Shines as Host City; Could the A10 Come Back?

BONA BACKER BITS:  Walt Stubbs

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA – The Atlantic Ten hosted its Men’s Basketball Tournament for the first time in Pittsburgh, the home of the Steelers, Iron City Beer and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.  By all accounts, hosting the tournament in the City of Bridges was a rousing success.   Going in to the tournament, there were more questions than answers, however, as it had to do with the fan bases of the 14 institutions that make up the league.  Other than Duquesne, the other 13 schools and their fan bases would have to travel at least three hours to get to Pittsburgh to root on their teams at the PPG Paints Arena. 

However, in leading up to the A-10 final Sunday afternoon between Rhode Island and VCU, everyone from the A10 officials, to the fans, to the athletic directors of the schools, the feeling was positive on the city and the tournament.  Most everybody who I spoke to thought Pittsburgh was a slam dunk.  The reasons given were many including;  the cost, the proximity of restaurants, shops and bars to the arena, to the hospitality of those from the City of Pittsburgh, and  to the arena itself. 

“I think by the time we are done this weekend, we might want the tourney to be here even more because I think the city embraced it and the arena embraced it” said Bonaventure AD Tim Kenney.  “It’s a great city to walk around in, it’s affordable and it’s a great stop to have it.  We had a reception with the local organizing committee last month and they were going around showing us and you couldn’t miss that the tournament was coming here,  through signs on the street, advertisements in the paper and all the rest. That’s impressive, because even though were down in Brooklyn (Barclays Center) the last few years in the media capital of the world, the tournament tended to get lost at times because New York is so big.  Here, everybody knows what’s going on and that’s a good thing.” 

Next year, the A10 heads to the nation’s capital and Washington DC before heading back to the Barclays Center and Brooklyn for two years.  After that, who knows?  Could the ACC or the Barclays offer to buy out the remaining two years the A10 is set to play in New York?  Who knows, anything is possible.  It was only a few years ago that the ACC and the Barclays approached the A10 and reached an agreement for the ACC to play it’s tourney this year and next in Brooklyn.  A few games were scheduled involving ACC and A10 schools but more importantly, a financial agreement was reached.  Money can do the talking again, so we shall see.

As far as finances, the league appeared to do well in ticket sales, despite Duquesne being the only school within a three hour drive, and they were eliminated on Wednesday Night.  Reports circulated that the league topped the 1 million dollar mark in ticket sales for the tournament, which the league didn’t achieve when it was in New York.  Most fans, though, don’t care about the financial windfalls of the league.  Going to a tournament is about the hospitality, affordability, and fun the fans can have at a particular venue.  Most of the fans around the city, be it from Bonas, Dayton, to George Mason, were happy to be in Pittsburgh.  As Mason Associate AD Max Baker said, “ We had a whole bus load of fans that came from Washington.  They think the city is great.  It’s easy walking to Market Street or the Strip District.  Everybody seems happy.”   

The St. Bonaventure contingent was well represented in Pittsburgh.  Alums from Chicago, Rochester, New York and New Jersey and Philadelphia were seen in the stands or at the pre game reception at Buford’s, located right across from the arena.  10 Penny was the original pre game destination before Thursday’s encounter with UMass, but the school wisened up and moved it to Buford’s before the Friday’s Quarter Final match-up with Rhode Island. 

However, not a strong following of alums from Buffalo were on hand, which was a bit befuddling.  Buffalo has the most alumni, is in the closest proximity to Pittsburgh but had the least amount of fans.  Interesting, but hard to understand.  Some alums think it has to do with entitlement or in some way laziness.  Why bother driving to Pittsburgh when we can watch it in the confines of our own home?  I’ll leave that one for the Buffalonians to explain. With the tourney heading to DC next year, I guess we shouldn’t expect that to change much. 

However, even more alumni from the east coast corridor, from Boston down to Charlotte, should be on hand to cheer on a Bonaventure team, which should be contending for an NCAA birth next year if all things fall into place.  Time will tell. 

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A member of the class of 2008, Nolan spent four years as a student assistant with the program. He has written professionally for such outlets as espn.com/insider, Athlon Sports Magazines, Cox Sports Online and Blue Ribbon Previews. Ian was named one of the “140 Personalities to Follow in College Basketball” on twitter by The Sporting News.