NCAA removes 1/3 of courtside media seating for Final Four

Ok, I know that unless you're media member, used to be, or one day strive to become you may not have the biggest interest in this story, but trust me it's a big deal.

Because watching a college basketball game from courtside is a world away from watching it up at the top of a dome in the NFL press box

It's all described in a letter from U.S. Basketball Writers Association leader Joe Mitch to his members

 

Dear USBWA Member:

 

The NCAA will still provide nearly 130 seats at or near courtside for print and digital media at the 2013 Final Four in Atlanta.

 

While that still means that the media will be losing about 70 of the 200 seats near courtside that were available to print and digital media at recent Final Fours, the new allotment of nearly 130 seats is more than three times the amount that was being proposed for the media two months ago. At one time, there was a possibility that all of the media seating would be moved to upper decks or end zones.

 

Large news agencies such as the Associated Press, espn.com, CBS Sports and USA Today will receive two seats near courtside and will be responsible for determining who sits in them. At least two beat writers will be accommodated from each participating school. And writers from news agencies with a long history of covering the Final Four also will be given strong consideration for seats near courtside.

 

"While it is difficult to feel good about losing roughly one-third of our seats, the NCAA clearly listened to the concerns that we brought to them," said USBWA President John Akers. "We believe that the majority of members who either cover the tournament year-in and year-out and those who need to be there to cover participating teams in the tournament will still be accommodated. While we still have concerns moving forward, from a glass-half-full perspective, we are very grateful for this outcome.

 

"In particular, we want to thank Dan Gavitt (NCAA vice president in charge of basketball), Mike Bobinski (the selection committee chairman), David Worlock (in charge of basketball tournament media relations) and the rest of the selection committee and the NCAA support staff for listening to us and for keeping an open mind."

 

Gavitt said the new arrangement will create about 300 lower-area seats for the NCAA. He said 60 percent of those seats will be sold to players' family and friends (at the same price as the allocations given to the participating teams); 20 percent will go to an undetermined charity; and 20 percent will go to CBS and the NCAA's corporate partners and sponsors.

 

Under the new configuration, a front row of seating opposite the team benches will be used primarily for CBS, ESPN, Dial Global and each participating team's radio teams. The remaining 22 seats during the semifinals will be given to the media, with the number growing to 30 for the championship game (with the media being given the space that was used by the radio stations of the losing teams from the semifinals).

 

A second media row will provide 24 seats, with 20 going to the media for the semifinals and two seats on each end going to coaches for scouting purposes. Those four seats will also open up for the championship game.

 

Four seats in each of the four corners of the court, located behind areas reserved for disabled seating, will also be able for the media, for a total of 16 seats.

 

Four more seats will be provided for two beat writers from each team (which will be swapped out after each game) on the table located behind the scorer's table.

 

Finally, a row in one end zone will provide another 56 seats, most of them going to the media.

 

About 200 seats will be available in auxiliary seating. Board members Dana O'Neil and Pat Forde recently toured the media seating areas in the Georgia Dome, and Dana reported that the auxiliary seats might be preferable to the end zone.

 

The configuration will be roughly the same for each preliminary and regional site, though end-zone seating will be available at only the regional site in Arlington, Texas.

 

The NCAA has given assurances that media placed in auxiliary seating will be granted the same necessities - such as Internet access - as those who have courtside seats. There are still uncertainties about where auxiliary seating will be carved out for preliminary and regional sites; the USBWA vows to continue to monitor and evaluate them in the future.

 

Joe MitchUSBWA Executive Directormitch@usbwa.com

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    Paul M. Banks

    Fulbright scholar in media studies, MBA, small media business owner, Published author, Founder of The Sports Bank.net, a Fox Sports affiliate Member: Society of Professional Journalists, Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Former political writer for Washington Times.com, NBC Chicago.com and numerous business journals Credentialed for: United Nations, Rose Bowl, BCS National Championship, Final Four, Stanley Cup Finals, and NBA Playoffs. Been featured on: Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports Live, The History Channel, CBS and ESPN radio. Does weekly segments for NBC and Fox Sports Radio stations across the nation.

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