Friday, June 1, 2018

MAAC Tournament headed to Atlantic City beginning in 2020

Boardwalk Hall, seen here hosting Atlantic 10 Tournament in 2012, will once again welcome postseason basketball in 2020 when MAAC moves its conference tournament out of Albany. (Photo by The Press of Atlantic City)

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men's and women's basketball championships are once again on the move.

The conference, and commissioner Rich Ensor, announced that the tournament -- held for the past four seasons at Albany's Times Union Center, where it will once again be held next March in the building's final year of the current contract with the MAAC -- will move to venerable Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The new venue will be the site of the MAAC Tournament for three years, beginning in 2020 and continuing through 2022, with league members Monmouth and Rider acting as co-hosts.

"It's a great thrill for me personally to have the MAAC Men's and Women's Basketball Championships hosted by Atlantic City in the world-famous Boardwalk Hall," Ensor said in a Friday morning press conference. "As a lifelong resident of the Jersey shore I know what a great destination site Atlantic City will be with numerous entertainment, hotel, gaming and dining options to compliment an exciting week of men's and women's college hoops."

The tournament was moved back to Albany before the 2015 season after a three-year experiment in Springfield, Massachusetts yielded suboptimal attendance figures. However, when the league's deal with Times Union Center was extended for two seasons beyond the three-year cycle that expired in 2017, there was a push among the MAAC institutions' administrators and presidents to return the tournament to a true neutral site. Times Union Center, the home court for Siena, has long been viewed as holding a home court advantage, even though the Saints have only advanced past the quarterfinal round once in the four years that the tournament has been back in Albany.

When he addressed the future of the MAAC Tournament in 2016, Ensor cited a desire to move closer to the New York metropolitan area, yet remained cognizant of the logistical obstacles that lie in such a path.

"There remains a strong sense among some of the MAAC presidents that if we can get into a metropolitan New York facility, it would help raise or elevate the entire brand, and I think we've known that for a long time," he said. "It's finding a building that is interested and also works for us financially."

Atlantic City's bid was selected in a unanimous vote among the MAAC presidents over Nassau Coliseum and Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, which hosted the MAAC Tournament in 2011, and the longtime casino hub gained traction as the prohibitive favorite after the MAAC conducted a site visit at Boardwalk Hall this past February.

With the move comes a scheduling change, however, as the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association holds the annual high school wrestling championships at Boardwalk Hall during the first weekend in March, which has traditionally been marked for the MAAC Tournament. The MAAC will move back five days, playing a Tuesday-through-Saturday schedule that culminates with the tournament championships being held the day before Selection Sunday, a slot on the calendar that is headlined by the Big East and Atlantic Coast Conferences contesting their own tournament championships, among others.

"The new dates place the MAAC Tournament in the weekend when all college basketball fans are anticipating team selections for the NCAA Championships and the league membership believes it will bring a new level of excitement for the teams and fans," said Ensor.

Ensor also announced the MAAC would be moving back to a 20-game league schedule, allowing for a double-round-robin between the conference's eleven programs, effective with the 2019-20 season, and eliminated restrictions that excluded MAAC schools from playing certain Division I teams. Prior to the 2017-18 season, the conference reverted to an 18-game schedule with an intent to promote stronger non-conference slates in the wake of Monmouth having been snubbed from the NCAA Tournament after winning the MAAC's regular season in both 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Future MAAC Tournament Dates

2020: March 10-14
2021: March 9-13
2022: March 8-12

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