What are you doing in 2017? If you're a Texas Longhorns fan, you're probably scouring the futures market for tickets to Texas-USC at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in September. Just to add to your epic sporting year, you may also want to pencil in a return visit to the West Coast--Portland, this time--in November.
Per ESPN, Michigan St. Athletic Director Mark Hollis has brought together a confederation of Nike schools to play in a 16-team "mega event" in 2017. Hollis, who was also one of the driving forces behind the inaugural Carrier Classic, dreamt up the idea as a tribute to Nike founder Phil Knight. Mr. Knight will turn 80 during the 2017-18 college basketball season.
This list of schools is incredible. Along with Michigan St are Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio State, Connecticut, Georgetown, Texas, Oklahoma, Stanford, Oregon, Xavier, Butler, Gonzaga and Portland.
All 16 schools have currently committed to participate. However, a "sneaker clause" applies. Should a school end up switching athletic brands, it wouldn't participate in the event. Further, because current NCAA rules prohibit more than one team from a conference to participate in a preseason tournament, any conference realignment changes could also impact the lineup.
The impetus for the event, according to Hollis, was to honor Knight and everything he has done for the college basketball landscape. The event is not driven by either Knight or Nike. The format also happens to be pretty nifty.
Hollis said how to split the conference teams hasn't been determined yet. The format for the event would have each set of eight teams play games at the Rose Garden and then Veterans Memorial Coliseum on a Thursday in late November. The two events would switch sites for Friday's semifinals and consolation bracket. The events would take Saturday off for college football programming and then return on Sunday, with the third-place game and championship at the Rose Garden and the consolation at Veterans.
The format would then be similar to the current one used by the Old Spice Classic, Anaheim Classic and Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic. Hollis said there is also discussion of having eight other teams come to the event that are Nike-sponsored to play games, as well, but not against this field. They could entertain playing the other 16 teams in campus-site games prior to the event to give each team a fourth game.
Greatest in-season college basketball event of all-time? It sure sounds like it is shaping up to be just that.