By Brian Murphy
In his 10-week tenure as Boise State’s athletic director, Mark Coyle has gotten one question more than any other. It has nothing to do with blue turf, football coach Chris Petersen or the football schedule.
Instead, people want to know when the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is coming back to Boise and Taco Bell Arena.
The immediate answer: Not anytime soon.
“I bet that is the No. 1 question I’ve been asked by people since being in Boise,” Coyle said Friday in an interview with the Idaho Statesman.
Boise hosted first- and second-round games eight times between 1983 and 2009. Taco Bell Arena was on a three-year cycle for a while, hosting in 1989, 1992, 1995, 1998 and 2001. As more Western cities joined the rotation, Boise fell into a less regular spot, hosting in 2005 and 2009 (after originally being awarded the 2010).
But Boise will not host in 2013 and, though the NCAA has yet to announce future sites, the tournament and March Madness appear to be out-growing 12,000-seat Taco Bell Arena.
“The NCAA keeps getting bigger and bigger and they’re finding different venues that are bigger,” Coyle said. “From that standpoint I don’t know how Taco Bell Arena compares to some of those opening-round sites but that is something we want to look at.”
Portland’s Rose Garden (capacity: 19,890) and Albuquerque’s The Pit (capacity: 15,411) are hosting second- and third-round games. The NCAA now calls the “First Four” games in Dayton, Ohio, the first round. In 2013, San Jose’s HP Pavilion (capacity: 18,549) and Salt Lake City’s EnergySolutions Arena (19,911) are hosting second- and third-round games.
The NCAA has identified other issues with Taco Bell Arena, Boise State officials said. The NCAA wants more barriers between fans and the team benches, preferably using media tables to provide it. However, moving the media to that side of the court costs the already small facility extra seats. There are other “space” problems as the NCAA wants a larger footprint, including bigger areas for bands and cheerleaders. The video board at Taco Bell Arena is in need of an upgrade as well.
Despite those limitations, Boise State still plans to attempt to bring the event back to Boise. The school hosted the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships earlier this month.
“I am a big believer that those are a great window for your university and your community nationally,” Coyle said.