The decision was not a difficult one for American Athletic Conference officials.
The debut of the women’s basketball conference tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena last month was met with overwhelming success. It was only logical that the event would return. And The American made it official today, with commissioner Mike Aresco announcing that the venue will again serve as host of the tournament in 2015.
“The American Athletic Conference and its member institutions are excited to return to a venue that demonstrated tremendous support for our women’s basketball tournament,’’ Aresco said in a statement. “Attendance was outstanding, the facility is first-rate and the Mohegan Sun staff provided a great experience for our student-athletes, coaches and fans, who we know will enjoy a return visit next year.
“Our fans will again have a great experience as they watch defending national champion UConn and our other outstanding student-athletes and teams play exciting basketball.”
The three-day event drew 33,069 fans over five sessions March 8-10. A total of 23,001 attended the three sessions that involved UConn (7,667), including a high of 8,034 for the championship game against Louisville March 10.
The attendance for the final represented the second-highest figure among the top seven conferences in the country. Only the ACC title game between Notre Dame and Duke in Greensboro, N.C. March 9 drew a larger crowd (8,190).
“It’s something that we wanted to do for a long time,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “We’ve always talked about it as coaches. I always thought it would be a great experience for the fans, a great experience for the players. It’s a beautiful venue, the crowds are great, the people that run it understand how to run these events. It was it everything that I thought it would be. But I’m not surprised it was as good as it was, and I can’t think of any one thing that I would say I was disappointed in.’’
With East Carolina, Tulsa and Tulane set to join the AAC and Louisville (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) set to leave, 11 teams will be competing in the tournament. The format will feature three first-round games on Day 1, followed by four quarterfinal games, two semifinal games and a championship game.
It is again a one-year agreement with Mohegan Sun Arena. Though, it is not expected that any decision by The American regarding a future tournament site will change as long as UConn remains a member of the conference.
“We are thrilled that we will be bringing the American Athletic Conference women’s basketball tournament back to Mohegan Sun Arena,’’ said Mitchell Etess, President and CEO of Mohegan Sun. “Our first year was a huge success. We are delighted to continue the relationship, and grow this great event moving forward.’’