A Classic in name only

Just a few notes and observations about one of this season’s exempt college basketball tournaments, the Charleston Classic

It’s the first year for this particular tournament, which is wholly owned by ESPN Regional Television, the distribution arm of the “worldwide leader”.  It will be played in Charleston at the Carolina First Arena, the new 5000-seat home for College of Charleston basketball, on November 14-16.

The Carolina First Arena was a building a long time in coming for C of C fans, but the tournament that will serve to open the arena is not part of the Cougars’ season ticket package.  If a College of Charleston fan wants to see the Cougars’ first game in their new home, he/she will have to shell out $30 to see the two-game session featuring the College.  Also, all the tickets are general admission.

I don’t know how well this tournament is going to do.  I have to say I am more than a little skeptical.  For one thing, the field is less than stellar.  The College of Charleston’s opening game is against SIU-Edwardsville.  That’s not the SIU Salukis of the Missouri Valley, regular participants in the NCAA tournament, but the SIU Cougars of the Ohio Valley, ineligible for the NCAA tournament.  (The SIU of the MVC is located in Carbondale, Illinois.)

SIU-Edwardsville is in its first year of transitioning to Division I status and won’t become a full-fledged NCAA Division I school in basketball until 2013.  I guess the tournament organizers couldn’t find another team.  I am sure fans will appreciate the Cougars vs. Cougars battle, although it’s definitely going to be a step up for SIU-Edwardsville, a program that was 10-9 in league play last season, that league being the Great Lakes Valley Conference.

Tangent:  Notable SIU-Edwardsville alums include both Ken Flach and Robert Seguso of doubles tennis fame (Seguso also of Carling Bassett fame), longtime baseball play-by-play man DeWayne Staats, and sportswriter Bill Plaschke.  The best-known SIU-E alum as far as college hoops is concerned, though, is probably the longtime official Ed Hightower.

The other teams in the Classic:  Clemson, Western Michigan, Temple, Hofstra, TCU, and East Tennessee State.  I can’t imagine a lot of people will be tuning in to see much of the action from this tourney.

Neither could ESPN, apparently.  Even though the tournament is owned by ESPN, the six games in the tournament that are going to be televised will be broadcast on CSS.

According to a recent article in The Post and Courier, sponsorship package and ticket sales have been slow.   Bobby Cremins bought a sponsorship himself (for $1,500) and has been working local business leaders in an effort to bring in more sponsors.

If the event organizers are having trouble selling tickets and bringing in sponsors for a tournament featuring both the College of Charleston and Clemson, what happens next year when neither of those schools will be in the tourney?  (It’s an exempt event, so schools can only participate once every four years.)

Reportedly next year’s tourney is going to include South Carolina.  Whether or not a basketball tournament in Charleston (not known as a great sports town) can succeed with South Carolina as its main local draw is open to question.  In future years, if The Citadel or Charleston Southern serves as the “host” school, the rest of the field better include several big-name schools.  The Western Michigans and Hofstras of the world won’t cut it.

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