The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and their fans will descend once again on Springfield, Massachusetts to determine basketball champions at the MassMutual Center.
Two weeks prior, commissioner Rich Ensor and the MAAC descended on Springfield to check in on their progress. Local interest is well ahead of their expectations through marketing and sponsorship sales. Hotels are near sold out levels in downtown Springfield and new hotels are getting close to full as well for a tournament that is expected to be wide open.
“I expect our crowds are going to be pretty good,” Ensor said. “We’re feeling good that the fans are engaged with their teams.”
“I think their fans are excited about coming to Springfield and we activating locally a lot of new sales initiatives including our new partnership with the Jimmy Fund. We feel both on the out of town sales and the local activation that we should be in a pretty good position to have good attendance at the championship.”
Fans who came to the tournament last year will have plenty of options. While the arena look will be similar to last year, Ensor said the MAAC has been distributing coupon booklets as part of their Swishing to Springfield promotion and will have a larger FanFest.
“The FanFest is going to be bigger than last year,” Ensor said. “It’s got a lot more local sponsorship involved. We built a program called Pioneer the Valley, which answers the question of ‘If I went to the championship last year and I’ve gone to the Hall of Fame what else can I do in the region?’ And so this will provide a number of different options relative to shopping, museums, outdoor activities and as part of that we had a coupon book developed that we’ve been distributing on campuses all year as part of our swishing to springfield promotion and we’ve been handing that out to fans so we’re hoping that the fan who has already been to the hall of fame and wants to do something else when they’re not at their games will have lots of options.”
Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos, who enjoyed his time in Springfield winning his first MAAC championship, said he’s looking forward to getting back to Springfield and getting a day in Northampton.
“I went to Northhampton and I was like ‘Wow this is beautiful, this is great,'” Patsos said. “Let’s take two hours to eat lunch, I took the team. They could walk around, do what they want.”
This is the second year of a three-year deal between the MAAC and Springfield to host the basketball championships. Ensor said in December that they will open up the next three years of tournament bidding for 2015 through 2017 this April. One factor Ensor said was important to make sure that local sales improve from last year. Other potential candidates for a future neutral site championship, if the MAAC moves away from Springfield, include Atlantic City; Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; and the Izod Center in New Jersey.
Another topic likely to be included in the MAAC’s future plans will be expansion. Ensor said that they currently sit at 11 teams for the 2013-14 season after adding Monmouth and Quinnipiac. They will continue to monitor the ‘Catholic 7’ as they look to shake up the conference landscape.
“We’ll have some scenarios developed internally to deal with possible additions of members and possible subtraction of members,” Ensor said. “I think our expansion to 11 was to provide the current membership with the security of knowing that if we were to lose a member or two, the MAAC is still a viable ongoing entity.”
“Conversely, we also have room to add a couple if we need to in order to take advantage of any schools that are looking to find a new home for their athletic programs so we’ll just have to see what happens.”
While the MAAC will be looking to see if any new members are out there, Ensor said that by the 2014-15 season they expect to be at an even number of teams.
“I think if it looks like we’re going to be 11 two years from now, we’ll be looking to expand to a 12th,” Ensor said. “I think we want an even number for scheduling purposes.”
Ensor said that some of the schools the MAAC considered for a 12th member have subsequently made decisions to join other leagues.
“Some of those [schools] have made other decisions subsequently but conference membership is going to remain very fluid process I think for the next few years until things settle down,” Ensor said.
Ryan Restivo covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo.
One thought on “MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor on Springfield and Conference’s Future”
Ensor is delusional. Having the MAAC tourney in Springfield makes no sense; it’s like putting the conf tournament in a witness protection program. No school has any connection to the area, and the MAAC has no school in the entire state. Dumb.