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Big Sky examines predetermined site for basketball tourney

By March 2016, the Big Sky Conference may hold its men’s and women’s basketball championships at predetermined sites.

Or it may stick to the current format, which rewards the regular-season champion with a home-court advantage but leaves players, fans and families hanging until five days before the events begin.

“We’re ready to take a look at whether a predetermined site makes the most sense,” Eastern Washington athletic director Bill Chaves said after returning from the Big Sky spring meetings in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

“We want to give ourselves a chance that if we do something different, we’ll do it right,” said Chaves, who said that most schools favor a change but want to study the topic further before moving forward.

The three-day event finalized event sites, formats and other details in the upcoming year for almost every sport, but postseason basketball was the biggest topic.

Talking about changing the format or location of the tournament “is a major philosophical change for the conference, and there are many issues to study before we take a formal proposal back to the presidents,” Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton said. 

Fullerton said school administrators and conference staff will assess which format makes the most logistical and financial sense, taking into consideration travel costs, the time students are away from school and fan experience while also giving some advantage to teams that win regular-season titles. 

The biggest issue is financial, said Chaves, who added that should permanent sites be adopted “and there’s a mechanism in place to bid, I would certainly be interested in working with folks to see if something makes sense” for Spokane to host one or both events.

With the addition of Idaho for all sports except football, the Big Sky will include 12 schools for men’s and women’s basketball beginning this coming season. The men’s and women’s basketball championships are scheduled for March 12-14 at the site of the regular- season champion.

Men’s and women’s basketball teams will play 18 conference games in a one-division format.

In other business, the conference:

• Discussed the possibility of using instant replay in football, following similar moves recently announced by the Southland and Missouri Valley conferences. A final decision will be made at next month’s football meetings.

• Expanded its women’s soccer championship to six teams and split the volleyball teams into two six-team divisions for the regular season. Squads will play each team in their division twice and each team in the other division once, giving them 16 conference matches. 

• Announced dates and sites for championship events, including the outdoor track and field meet at Eastern on May 13-15.

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