From the Archive: Excitement of Elite Eight Tournament Close to Home


Photo by: Cathryn Schwindel/Shield Archive

Area basketball fans are dedicated spectators, and will most likely pack the Commonwealth Convention Center next week for the Elite Eight Tournament.

Brian Harris

Message from 2021-2022 Editorial Staff: 

The first issue of The Spartan Shield was published Oct. 15, 1968. The Shield Staff is celebrating The Shield’s 53rd birthday by digitally republishing stories from The Shield Archive. The following story was published Mar. 13, 1995 when Men’s Basketball entered the Elite Eight for the second time in two years. In 1995 USI won the NCAA Division II National Championship for men’s basketball. The following story has not been edited by the 2021-2022 staff.

Story From the Shield Archive:

When USI beat Northern Kentucky Sunday afternoon In the final game of the NCAA Division II Regional Tourna­ment. USI put Itself in Its sec­ond Elite Tournament In two years. But now, the excitement will be a little closer to home.

From 1957 to 1976, the Division II Elite Eight Cham­pionship Tournament was held in Evansville. But for the last 18 years, the tournament has been almost out of reach of Midwest sports fans, espe­cially since the 1979 reloca­tion to Springfield., Mass., almost a full day’s drive.

But all that Is about to change.

Next week, from March 22- 25, the tournament will be held In Louisville, Ky. at theCommonwealth Convention Center – practically In the middle of the United States and convenient to anyone liv­Ing In this area of the country.

Anyone with a working knowledge of basketball knows the Midwest Is a hot­bed for that energetic, fast paced sport. Division I college basketball teams with quality programs such as Indiana and Purdue universities receive loyal support from fans.

And Division II teams In the area are nothing to sneeze at, either. Teams such as the University of Southern Indi­ana and Kentucky Wesleyan College In Owensboro, Ky. have top-notch players as well.

Ray Simmons, sports In­formation director for USI, says he sees the Louisville site as a tremendous oppor­tunity for Division II basket­ball.

Although the Basketball Hall of Fame Is located in Springfield, and the state of Massachusetts Is generally supportive of basketball, there are a Wide variety of programs and tournaments In the area that have drawn attention away from the Elite Eight, he Said.

But now, “being in a more central part of the country gives the Elite Eight a chance to draw more respectable crowds than what they were getting out in Springfield,” Simmons said.

The site for the tourna­ment Is determined by bids received from cities, said Roy Pickerill, media coordinator for the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship Committee and sports Infor­mation director for KWC.

Each city bids on how much money It estimates It could minimally make from the tournament, he said. The minimum bid Is $15,000, and the championship committee determines a winner based on which city It believes will be the most beneficial to the tournament overall.

The contract Is for three years and the host city may then, after the three years Is up, bid again to host the tour­nament, Pickerill said.

This time around, Louisville was chosen for several reasons, he said. All bids were basically the same- about $50,000, so money was really not the most important Issue. Besides being centrally located, Louisville’s Commonwealth Conven­tion Center boasts a capacity of over 7,000 seats.

But more to the point. Pickerill said, “everybody knows there’s only one sport that really attracts attention tn this part of the country- and that’s basketball, which Includes Division II.”

Fan support In this area Is dedi­cated, and people are willing to travel just about anywhere to support their teams, he said. For example, KWC took about 1,000 fans to the tourna­ment in 1992. and USI did the same when It went last year.

“Whether or not (KWC or USI) are in It, we expect a large turnout from this area, because there are four great days of basketball, It’s Inexpensive (seven games for $35) and it’s an expe­rience of a lifetime,” Pickerill said.

He said another advantage to host­ing the tournament In Louisville Is the convention center Is a large conven­tion hall, so the seats are closer to the court. The Springfield CMC Center is a hockey arena, so the seats are far­ther away.

Part of what makes the tourna­ment such an attraction is the tale of struggles, triumphs and defeats lead­ing up to the tournament.

In Division II, there are eight re­gions– West, North Central, South Central, Great Lakes, South, South Atlantic, East and Northeast. In each region, the six top-ranked teams play in a regional tournament. The site for the regional tournament Is also deter­mined by bids.

In the regional tournaments, the third -ranked team plays the sixth ­ranked team, and the winner of that game moves on to the semi-finals, playing the first-ranked team. The fourth-ranked team plays the fifth ranked team, and the winner of that game also moves on to the semi-finals, playing the second-ranked team.

The winners of the two semi-final rounds play each other. and the win­ner of that game moves on to repre­sent Its region in the Elite Eight Tour­nament.

Pickerill said he was chosen to be on the championship committee over a year and a half ago. When the tour­nament site was awarded to Louis­ville. Ken Lindsey. commissioner of the Greater Lakes Valley Conference, gave Pickerill a call the same day the announcement was made, to tell him the NCAA had requested Pickerill be on the committee.

Pickerill said he was chosen partly because of his 24 years of service to Division II basketball, all of which has been at KWC. He is also a native of Louisville, so the position seemed perfect for him.

The 18-member committee is a diverse group, he said, consisting not only of sports types but of average businessmen as well. From April to December, the committee meets once a month for planning sessions. In January and February, the commit­tee meets twice a week to fine-tune responsibilities.

Tasks the committee tackles In­clude making sure transportation Is available for the teams, hiring a statis­tics crew, making a banner featuring the names of past champions, and painting the floor of the convention center with the Elite Eight logo.

“It takes every bit of 365 days and more to plan a national champion­ship,” Pickerill said.