By: Jimmy Hyams
You might be wondering why the University of Tennessee hasn’t hosted a men’s NCAA Tournament game in almost two decades.
You might be wondering why Thompson-Boling Arena – an inviting venue that seats almost 22,000 – hasn’t been featured in March Madness since 1999.
The answer is simple: TBA doesn’t qualify.
That has robbed local fans of seeing some exhilarating college basketball.
Like in 1990, when Georgia Tech, led by Dennis Scott and Kenny Anderson, upset an LSU team with Shaquille O’Neal and Chris Jackson.
Like in 1994, when Duke and Grant Hill, and Kansas and Roy Williams, and Purdue and Glen Robinson and Cuonzo Martin, and Marquette and Kevin O’Neill took the court.
Like in 1999, when Ohio State and Michael Redd, and Auburn and Chris Porter, and St. John’s and Ron Artest, and Maryland and Gary Williams were the featured teams in a regional final.
You know by now Knoxville loves high-level college hoops.
The Vols proved that again this year by averaging over 19,000 per home game to rank No. 4 in the nation in attendance.
So why no more NCAA men’s Tournament games?
TBA no longer fits the NCAA requirements.
The criteria has changed through the years. A venue must have at least four locker rooms, a media area for CBS, TBS, or TNT, climate-controlled meeting rooms for NCAA and TV officials, and a more expansive media work room.
TBA lost some of that space to expand the Vols and Lady Vols’ locker rooms. It uses other space for storage. It has limited back space area.
All of those things are not required to host the first two rounds of the NCAA women’s tournament. But they are for the men’s events.
The last time UT submitted a bid – and lost – was about 10 to 12 years ago.
There has been no need to offer another bid because TBA doesn’t qualify.
UT would have to renovate TBA to host another round of the NCAA Tournament.
It’s worth considering.