|Cowboys Stadium is a modern marvel for what a sports venue can be, but it's not fit for college hoops. (Getty Images)|
If college basketball is trying to shove off connotations its game has become too AAU-like, this news won't help the cause.
Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis has an item in his Thursday Hoop Thoughts column that I read three times just to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing.
Davis recently spoke with Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, a man who's had plenty of creative and successful ideas to enhance the image of college sports over the years. Hollis conjured up Michigan State's outdoor hockey game against Michigan more than a decade ago. He arranged the BasketBowl at Ford Field between MSU and Kentucky some years back. It was his impetus that got the Spartans over to Germany this season to start the year against UConn on a U.S. military base, a beautiful site and an unprecedented thing; college hoops had never played a regular season game overseas.
And of course there was the 11/11/11 Carrier Classic between Michigan State and North Carolina. That was also a first.
This next idea needs to not be a first. Let's end it before it begins. Someone conk some heads together and kill this proposal before too many yes men get into a room, belly up to a massive conference table and agree to something so idiotic. Hollis is arranging a four-games-at-once carnival for Veterans Day 2013. All the games would be played at Cowboys Stadium, -- yes, all of them at the same time.
Like this is some sort of weekend rec league tournament at the local fieldhouse? It's an awful idea. I can hear NBA fans choking on their food as they laugh at lunacy of such a publicity stunt.
Here's more from Davis' piece:
The games will begin 15 minutes apart and be held side by side (by side by side) in the giant facility. The purpose is to simulate the madness that takes place during the first week of the NCAA tournament. Only instead of the games taking place in four different cities, they'll be played in one town, under one roof.
"We're going to squeeze everything into a three-hour time period," Hollis told me. "We're talking with eight institutions right now that have a very high interest and have that weekend open, and we're going to partner with the 12 [military] bases that are around Dallas, so we can make it a celebration for the guys at Fort Hood and others."
Hollis didn't want to get into which schools would be playing, except to confirm that Michigan State would be one of them. The idea came to him while he was touring the stadium last month for the unveiling of the 2014 Final Four logo. Cowboys Stadium is so massive (and its overhanging video screen so gargantuan) that Hollis wondered aloud whether they could have four courts instead of one for the Veterans Day tipoff. "I was sitting with Rolando Blackmon, and he said to me, 'You can never do that,'" Hollis said. "Someone barked out, 'You just told that to the wrong guy.' "
Credit to Rolando Blackman for stating the obvious. If only he'd had a posse around him to snuff this one out before it grew legs. Listen, Hollis is a guy college athletics is better for having, but sometimes ambition clouds what's best for certain situations. We don't need to try things just to try them, for the sake of having to do something new at the start of each basketball season. The sport doesn't gain anything by trying to one-up itself as the years go by.
This is why people who mock college basketball have the right to point and chuckle from time to time. There's a fine line between enterprising ideas and full-fledged gimmickry. This idea isn't inventive or smart. Sure the environment will be unprecedented, but how is it going to benefit college basketball?
Plus, it's not clear how television benefits, either. And what about the practicality of actually playing these games? You could have phantom whistles causing random stoppages of play. How will you control the horn sounds for the end of the shot clocks and substitutions? What about the crowd? Different reactions -- oohs and ahhs -- for different games, but everyone will hear it, right? You'll be staging disadvantages and unnatural conditions; these games will deserve an even larger asterisk than the ones held on aircraft carriers.
And since I mentioned it, give me 40 battleship games, flaws and all, before four simultaneous tilts in Texas' tethered spaceship. Not to mention, Arlington's spacepalace is just too big. Jerry's Neptune Atlantis can hold more than 100,000 people and I'm already wary of just how much it will echo for the 2014 Final Four. Let's do our best to to put as few games into football arenas as possible.
If we're going to continue (as we should) to marry college basketball with appreciation for our nation's Armed Forces on Veterans Day, let's keep things in spirit with the way the U.S. Military carries itself. Do it proudly, but without too much flash or bombast. Play the games at military bases, let proceeds to go wounded warriors' families and getting veterans jobs. Hold the games with more circumstance than pomp.
Don't throw together four courts and cram them into a football stadium and say it's the best way to converge college basketball and our troops. That's treason against common logic.