October 27, 2008

Volleyball National Championship City?

On the right side of this website, I have posted another reader's poll. I am curious as to what folk's opinion would be to have one city as the destination city for the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship.

A few sports have a 'destination' or championship city that annually hosts their national championships. For Baseball it is Omaha, for Softball it is Oklahoma City and for many years Tennis had its championships in Athens, Georgia.

The argument for a destination city is that it provides an identity for the media, participants and fans associate with, is usually in a town that is extremely supportive of the sport, and would allow for a shorter or more effective management/marketing set up.

The argument against a destination city is that a stronger program located nearby would have a home court advantage (i.e. Nebraska a few years ago), it does not encourage the development of the volleyball as hosting the championship in growing participation area would, and NCAA Basketball does not have a destination city.

Men's Volleyball, per its geographic make-up, tends to rotate its championship between just a few host schools as dictated by facility size. This could be another option for Women's Volleyball - it would be less restrictive than a destination city and could be rotated among a few geographically diverse cities that are very supportive of women's volleyball while using a set schedule.

I am not sure how hosting the NCAA Championship is awarded and it seems to me that it does entail some type of geographic rotation now.

It is not an easy choice to make. I can see the benefit of having a supportive city host the championships to ensure a good crowd, like Omaha, even if it does mean a local team would have a nice home-court advantage. Many would say the home court is not fair, but let's be fair about how 'many' it would really affect. Are there more than 8 schools that have the talent to realistically say they are national champion contenders? That means that 7 schools are at a disadvantage and over 300 could benefit by a change.

But then again, if the home team does not advance, like what happened to the U. of Hawaii many years go, then the possible 'sold-out' crowd is not longer going to show up. Nebraska looks as strong as ever, but if they fall short of the Final Four, will the local fans still show up to a non-Nebraska Final Four? It is awfully cold, with not much to do in mid-December in Omaha so maybe they would.

What concerns me about our National Championship is that it rarely fills the stands. Even with the AVCA hosting its annual convention and a majority of NCAA Division I conferences holding meetings on site, the stands have plenty of empty chair backs. This cannot be viewed as a positive by anyone. Empty seats speak a lot louder than great volleyball to the new viewer that just tuned in. When we are on ESPN2 or 10, or U or Desportes, being shown at 2 a.m. on a tape delay, something is not right. At least we could fill the stands so it gives the impression that this is a big event and the networks have not yet caught on.

I just checked the AVCA site and it lists ticket prices as $54.00 for upper level and $64.00 for lower level - this includes on ticket for the semi's and one for the championship. I understand you get two tickets, but that is a rather steep price to pay for a family, especially when they are not selling out. I vaguely remember my college economics class and something about supply versus demand, but maybe I did not get a good enough grade to go into depth about prices.

I look forward to what the voters say - Of course I will forward this poll to the NCAA Volleyball Committee for immediate implementation!