Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Face the music: Battling SxSW, UIL may change date or site of state hoops
The UIL high school basketball state tournament will need to find a new home or a new weekend by 2016, UIL executive director Charles Breithaupt said Tuesday.
South by Southwest, which runs from March 7-16 this year and overlapped with last weekend’s boys basketball tournament, has made hotels hard to find and, in many cases, even harder to afford.
The music, film and interactive festival, Breithaupt said, has also contributed to a drop in attendance, which he estimated has declined by roughly 30,000 over the last 10 years.
“It’s either change the date or change the venue in the near future,” Breithaupt said, “or our tournament won’t fare well.”
"It may be taken out of the UIL's hands," DeSoto coach Chris Dyer said. "Some state legislators are very miffed about this, from what I've heard."
Ponder coach Jude Stanley said his team stayed in Round Rock last weekend and had to be up and out of the hotel at 5:50 a.m. Friday for the 8:30 tipoff of its Class 2A state semifinal. When Ponder went to state in 2010, Stanley said, the team stayed less than five miles away from the arena.
Ponder fans, Stanley said, tried to get hotel rooms in Austin and it was going to be $300 to $400 per night. The UIL secured 15 rooms for players and coaches for each team at a reduced rate of about $200 per night, Breithaupt said.
Dyer said his team stayed in Marble Falls — roughly 50 miles from the Frank Erwin Center — and the drive in took 90 minutes. When DeSoto last went to state, in 2009, the team stayed just a few miles from the Erwin Center, and “it was nowhere near what we’re having to pay now.”
“Five hundred dollars a night for a hotel? Come on,” Dyer said. “Most of them are high school teachers, high school coaches.”
Dyer said he’d prefer the tournament move to Dallas or rotate between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.
"The NCAA Tournament, they do a good job of marketing, letting the cities bid for it. Maybe there is a way for the UIL to put it out for a bid," said Kennedale coach Doug Groff, whose team was a 3A state semifinalist this season.
Asked if he would be interested in American Airlines Center hosting the state tournament, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said “of course” when reached by e-mail. There is precedent for a move to the Dallas area.
All 11-man football championships have been played in Arlington the last three years, and the volleyball state tournament moved from San Marcos to Garland in 2012 to avoid a conflict with the Formula One race.
The biggest roadblock to changing the venue would be altering a nearly 100-year-old tradition.
“When you change something that’s been in place for 100 years, that’s pretty sensitive,” Breithaupt said. ”We have to think about that. We’re not moving rapidly, but we have to think about something by 2016. Something will have to change by that point in time.”
There would be major challenges to changing the date of the tournament, too.
The UIL could shorten the basketball season or push it up or back a number of weeks, but those options have been met with strong opposition from coaches, Breithaupt said. A change would cause even more overlap between basketball season and the fall or spring sports, creating a problem for players who participate in multiple sports.
“I don’t want to lose any practice days or any games,” Groff said. “I would lean more toward moving the location.”
Any change to the date or venue would also affect the girls basketball season, which begins and ends a week before the boys.
“It's a tradition to go to Austin,” said Duncanville girls basketball coach Cathy Self-Morgan, whose team has been to the last three state tournaments. “That weekend I was there, I was asked by the Sunset Committee – the one that reviews the UIL – and I supported the tournament being in Austin.”
The topic will be brought to the UIL legislative council this summer to review the options, Breithaupt said. He didn’t rule out the possibility of a change going into effect next year, but that will be more difficult since tickets for the 2015 tournament have already been sold.
Staff writers Greg Riddle and Eddie Sefko contributed to this report.