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SportsMondayTuesday: The View From North Texas

What can they see from up there? And if fans are willing to buy those seats, what won't they buy?

Those were my primary questions as UConn held off Kentucky for the national championship 60-54 Monday night.

Sure, I also wondered whether the gritty, gutty young Wildcats could find a way to rally yet again. Or whether the Huskies and their ultra-talented and experienced guards, including pride-of-Aurora Ryan Boatright (Co-Mr. Basketball of Illinois 2011), would prove the old maxim right yet again.

That would be the one that states that, eventually, the best guards prevail. Boatright, a junior, and senior Shabazz Napier (a game-high 27 points) certainly qualified as that, despite Aaron Harrison's amazingly clutch long-range shooting for Kentucky late in the rounds leading up to the championship.

But first I wanted to know why on God's green earth do people buy tickets for the third deck at the top of a gargantuan arena (capacity 100,000-plus) somewhere in "North Texas?"

The place certainly looked like the still new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. And last I checked, Arlington still qualifies as suburban Dallas.

But a branding decision was made and that meant that no one, and I mean no one, with a media pass to this sucker referred to the host location as anything other than "North Texas." If you didn't want your credentials pulled (I'm exaggerating a bit but you know what I'm saying), "suburban Dallas" was not in your vocabulary. The money men had decreed that "North Texas" sells better. Exactly what it sells I'm not sure but I don't have an MBA.

And of course, AT&T has paid tens of millions of dollars for the naming rights to the awesome structure formerly known as Jerry's World.

And when the cameras gave us an opportunity to take it all in, there were those aforementioned fans at the tippy-, tippy-top of the stadium. They had apparently been able to find their way despite the potential confusion about the location.

The NCAA claimed that an all-time college basketball record 79,444 (you have to be suspicious of round numbers like this) fans took in the semifinal games on Saturday. The number on Monday was apparently 79,238.

I suppose one thing the folks in the "cheap" seats have going for them is the fact that the high-definition scoreboards hanging high over the middle off the playing surface are apparently spectacular.

So the fans that sit way, way up in that last deck can watch the game on whichever of the four massive giant screens faces them. Why they wouldn't want to just go ahead and do this at home or at a sports bar and maybe save a little money and a lot of trouble is another question.

But then they couldn't say they were there, right? The bottom line is that the American sports fan is still willing to spend more and more and more on the Final Four, even if it means sitting a mile away from the action.

NCAA president Mark Emmert claimed last week that the NCAA hosts the tournament at stadiums rather than classic basketball arenas because then tens of thousands of fans are able to attend the event who otherwise wouldn't be able to do so. Right, it's for the fans!

We all know it's about the money. It's certainly not about the "student-athletes," the schools or the experience. Every last fan willing to help fill the coffers of an organization so dedicated to amateur athletes that it keeps every last cent to itself is welcome.

This, in part, is why Northwestern football players - different sport, same dynamic - may unionize.

And litigation looms that would force the NCAA to change the way it does business.

But as long as fans keep voting for the current set-up with their dollars, it is hard to be optimistic about a more fair and balanced system going into effect anytime soon.


Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays Tuesdays. He welcomes your comments.

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