Ivy League to add men's, women's hoops tournaments in 2017
NEW YORK (AP) The last holdout for postseason conference tournaments has finally given in.
The Ivy League will add men's and women's basketball tournaments next season that will determine the conference's automatic berths for the NCAA Tournament.
''The structure of our basketball tournaments is consistent with our model of college athletics and the format allows us to preserve the significance of the regular season,'' Ivy League executive director Robin Harris said. ''Most importantly, this creates a landmark event during March Madness for our basketball student-athletes to anticipate while they are in school and to cherish throughout their lives after graduation.''
The Ivy League traditionally sent its regular-season champion to the tournament. This season, the Yale men and Penn women won under the round-robin format. Only the top four teams in the eight-team conference standings will qualify for the tournament.
''This is a great opportunity to showcase our talented student-athletes when all eyes are on college basketball,'' said Princeton men's coach Mitch Henderson. ''These tournaments enhance the importance of every single game of our conference schedule as our teams compete for the opportunity to be a part of a championship experience.''
Harris said discussions about a tournament have been going on for many years but ramped up in the fall of 2014. School presidents approved it this winter.
The 2017 tournament for men and women will be March 11 and 12 at the Palestra in Philadelphia. Future sites will be evaluated after next year's tournament.
Playing both tournaments together was important to the league.
''That was a huge part of our consideration,'' Harris said. ''It provides a wonderful opportunity to bring together our men's and women's basketball fans and constituents in one location, to celebrate the Ivy League and the sport of basketball. It brings more attention to each fan base. You may have some overlap with teams.''
While the Palestra is the on-campus arena for Penn, the league thought it was the best venue for the first tournament at least.
''Our groups considered many different options for location,'' Harris said. ''It was a very thorough discussion, whether going to the site of higher seed, for example. Did we want to go to the Palestra? Did we want to find a neutral venue? At the end of the day, we should go to this iconic venue that exists in our own league.''
One of the keys to getting the tournament in place was playing on Saturday and Sunday so students would not miss classes - the reason the league plays its conference schedule on Friday and Saturday nights. The presidents also decided that each league team must get rid of one nonconference game because of the tournament.
Princeton women's coach Courtney Banghart wished the league would have done more to protect the top seed, as many other conferences do.
''Home-court advantage is significant in basketball, it's a big deal,'' she said. ''Not protect your No. 1 team is odd.''
But she was happy the men and women would play in the same arena for the title.
''That's important as an Ivy League alum,'' said Banghart, a Dartmouth graduate. ''That should be really fun.''