On Sioux Falls, the Sports Authority, D2 and D1

The SF Sports Authority, as you no doubt heard yesterday and can read more about here, was awarded on eight of the 19 bids it submitted to the NCAA to host championship events.

Here’s the list:
2015 Division II women’s basketball: March 27,28,30 at the Sanford Pentagon
2016 Division II women’s basketball: March 22,23, 25 at the Pentagon
2016 Division II wrestling: March 11-12 at the Denny Sanford Premiere Center
2016 Division II women’s volleyball: December 8-10 at the Pentagon
2017 Division II men’s basketball: March 22,23,25 at the Pentagon
2018 Division II women’s basketball: March 27,28,30 at the Pentagon
2018 Division II men’s basketball: March 28,29,31 at the Pentagon
2018 Division II men’s and women’s outdoor track: May 24-26 at the USF Lillibridge Track and Field complex

You’ll notice the list is comprised entirely of Division II events. Executive director Wes Hall didn’t disclose what the other 11 bids they submitted were for, but at least a few of them were for Division I events, including a women’s basketball regional. Hall seemed to suggest that bid might’ve had a chance at coming through, but the NCAA decided to play those games at the sites of the higher seeds.

At the press conference I asked, specifically, if there was any disappointment from bids that were not chosen. Hall gave a very enthusiastic, ‘No, not at all’, as his answer, which is not surprising.
And to be fair, it might almost seem greedy to complain about what you didn’t get when you were chosen for 8 bids. That’s pretty good, particularly for a town the size of Sioux Falls.
Still, I wonder if the NCAA is taking the attitude, right now at least, that Sioux Falls is more of a “Division II town”.
Perhaps that perception can and will change if the city does well hosting the D2 events, which I expect it will.
Sioux Falls is certainly as big or bigger, even, than many cities that are home to Division I schools, but championships are generally regarded as the territory of major cities. I don’t know if I see that changing, but I could be wrong.

Of course, Wednesday’s announcement is good news for Division II. SDSU and USD are still in the infancy of their Division I affiliation.
While I don’t think either is ever going to rise to the level of support that NDSU enjoys in Fargo (primarily because of their respective locations), they’ve both pretty well established themselves as being at the top of the totem pole when it comes to area sports.
Augustana and USF get fairly strong attendance (Augie moreso than USF) and significantly strong media attention (thanks in large part to the work of myself), but the gap between the NSIC and the Summit League, between Division II and Division I, when it comes to those exposure issues, seems more likely to widen than shrink over time, in my opinion.

I think others see it that way as well. That’s why bringing D2 events to Sioux Falls is good for Augie and USF, for the NSIC, and for Division II.
For all of Wednesday’s glad-handing about how great this is for Sioux Falls (I don’t exactly see how a single tournament brings “millions of dollars” to Sioux Falls, and as is always conveniently overlooked, most of those dollars simply go to restaurants and hotels, anyway), it’s especially important, potentially, for Division II sports.

I was at the women’s Elite Eight last year in San Antonio. I assure you, the event did not make a blip on the local sports radar down there. The crowds were small, even after they brought classes of grade school children in to fill seats and at least create some noise in the arena.

That won’t be the case here. I don’t expect any of these games to sell out the Pentagon, especially if all of the teams are from Texas and New York and Kentucky, etc., but there’s a good chance the attendance will be solid. We’ve seen that in Summit League games that have not involved one of the Dakota schools.
And while it’s hard to speculate what our media situation will even look like in 2017-18, I’d have to assume that at the very least, the Argus Leader will provide front page sports coverage when the Division II national championships are being played in town.
All of that is good for the NSIC and Division II sports. It keeps them relevant in Sioux Falls, and actually gives the NSIC and Division II a chance to strengthen, not just maintain, its presence in Sioux Falls. There are, and this may come as a shock to some of you in the blue and yellow (or red and white) glasses, a significant number of sports fans in Sioux Falls who aren’t all that enthused about the D1 experience taking place in Vermillion and Brookings.
I don’t count myself among them, but there’s a lot of them in this town.
Some are Augie/USF/DWU/etc. fans, some just refuse to drive to Brookings or Vermillion, and some consider the Summit/FCS to be ‘glorified Division II’, and keep their attention focused on professional or major college sports.
As good as it is for the Pentagon and Sports Authority to bring major events to the city in hopes of later parlaying them into even more/bigger events, it’s equally as good for the NSIC and Division II to bring these events to town in hopes of getting themselves on the radar for people who don’t much care what’s going on in Brookings and Vermillion.

Ultimately, I think the potential for attention is what won out for Sioux Falls. The Pentagon is a nice facility, yes. But for the athletes, the idea of coming to South Dakota in March to play for a championship, over past sites like San Antonio and Boston, can’t sound appealing.
The tradeoff, of course, is that they’ll get more out of it. That they’ll be a ‘bigger deal’ in Sioux Falls than they would be elsewhere.
Judging by how well Sioux Falls has done with the Summit League tournament (wouldn’t most of us agree that has turned out to be even better than the most optimistic among us could’ve hoped?), I’m pretty certain Sioux Falls will do a good job of hosting these tournaments, from game operations to hospitality to media coverage. I’m not sure exactly what attendance will be like (this year’s NSIC tournament might be a good litmus test), but it can’t be any worse than what is usual.

If nothing else, I’m happy about it. As our resident D2 guy, I’ve got plenty more to cover right in my own backyard.
That’s assuming the Argus is still paying me in four years.