How long does it take to decide who gets a Final Four? Well over a year. The NCAA announced Thursday that the bidding process for the 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 Final Fours has begun. The winners of those four bids will not be announced until November of 2014, though any cities that want in on the festivities have to submit their intention to bid by Oct. 11 -- three weeks away. Official bids, including a budget, hotels/hotel rates and other criteria have to be submitted by Nov. 15.
“We're excited to begin what we expect to be a competitive bid process,” Wake Forest athletic director/2014 NCAA tournament selection committee chairman Ron Wellman said in a statement. “Through the years the Final Four has evolved from one of the country's favorite events into one of the world's most popular events, so it's a tremendous opportunity for cities to be the center of the sporting universe.”
The finalists will be announced in January, and next summer will see the review process take place behind closed doors. The NCAA men's basketball committee will visit finalist sites next fall before the announcement is made. And although the NCAA is (thankfully) no longer putting an emphasis/priority on staging the Sweet 16/Elite Eight games in massive domes, the Final Four will continue to be housed in the biggest of covered spaces.
"When evaluating prospective hosts, the committee will review each city's competition venue, transportation and lodging, and the region's overall commitment to the event. Venues must hold a minimum of 60,000 fans, and host cities or regions must be able to provide at least 10,000 full-service hotel rooms within reasonable proximity to the competition venue," according to the NCAA's release.
The upcoming season will see its ultimate weekend culminate just outside of Dallas at AT&T Stadium -- also known as Jerry's Spaceworld of Narnia and Fantasmagoria, to laymen like you and I. (In a cool full-circle idea, the 2013-14 season will also kick off in Dallas, and that's an idea likely to trend in the future.)
The 2015 Final Four will be held in Indianapolis -- where it was most recently in 2010, when Duke beat Butler in an ugly classic -- and the 2016 Final Four will return to its 2011 site, Houston.
If you're curious about what cities/venues have hosted Final Fours over the past 75 years, head here. Despite the fact that Houston and North Texas will have hosted three Final Fours in a six-year period, I hope San Antonio puts in a bid and gets another shot. Plenty have said that New Orleans and San Antonio are the best venues for a Final Four, bar none, with Indianapolis a somewhat-distant third. So let's do this: San Antonio in 2017, then New Orleans, then San Antonio again, then go back to New Orleans in 2010. WHO'S GONNA ARGUE.
And if you're curious about which cities have NFL domed stadiums, here are nine potential bidders:
Atlanta (which could have a monumentally bonkers dome by then)