CHARLOTTE, N.C. (www.BigSouthSports.com) — The Big South Conference Council of Chief Executive Officers has awarded the 2021-23 Big South Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships to Charlotte, North Carolina, bringing the tournaments to historic Bojangles’ Coliseum, conference officials announced today at a press conference at the arena. The facility marks the league’s first neutral site for its marquee basketball events since 2003 and just the fifth time overall in the conference’s 36-year history.
“What made Charlotte really attractive is number one, it’s a world-class destination,” said Big South Commissioner Kyle Kallander. “Charlotte is centrally located in our footprint so travel is manageable for Big South fans and there are fantastic hotels, shopping and entertainment options. The city’s growth is incredible, and the leadership in the Queen City has really embraced the Big South. With this kind of support we feel confident that our partnership will result in an outstanding championship. What a great showcase this will be for tremendous Big South Basketball!”
The Big South Conference will host its basketball championships in its home city for the first time starting in March 2021, as well as conduct the first same-site event since 2015 when the conference held its basketball postseason at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C. from 2013-15. The league previously staged a neutral site conference tournament from 1991-92 (men’s – Civic Center of Anderson, S.C.), 1993-94 (men’s – North Charleston Coliseum, S.C.), 1999-00 (men’s and women’s – Asheville Civic Center, N.C.) and 2002-03 (men’s and women’s – Roanoke Civic Center, Va.).
“We are so pleased to have been awarded the Big South Tournament for three years, and are excited to welcome the coaches, teams, staff and fans to Charlotte,” said Tom Murray, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. “This marks yet another marquee collegiate sporting event that the city has hosted thanks to a great partnership with the City of Charlotte and the Charlotte Sports Foundation. Events such as these are so important to keeping our visitor economy healthy and supporting the one in nine residents who work in the region’s tourism industry.”
“We are very excited for Charlotte to be chosen as the home for the Big South Conference Basketball Tournaments for the next three years,” added Danny Morrison, Executive Director of the Charlotte Sports Foundation. “This is a great example of the power of collaborative efforts among the CRVA, CSF and city officials to bring compelling sporting events to Charlotte. We know that Charlotte will be a tremendous destination for the fans and universities of the Big South.”
The 8,600-seat Bojangles’ Coliseum underwent a $16 million renovation in 2016, adding new seats, a scoreboard, ribbon boards, sound system and a full service dinner club called Red Line.
Charlotte emerged from a group of finalists that included Winston-Salem, N.C., and Hampton, Va., after the conference’s Council of Chief Executive Officers began exploring in spring 2018 possible neutral site venues. Since 2016, Big South men’s and women’s basketball tournament games have been held at either a pre-determined campus site, or on the home court of the highest seeds.
“The presidents and chancellors have been thinking for a year or so about the potential advantages of going to a neutral site,” said Longwood University President W. Taylor Reveley IV, chair of the Big South CEOs. “The esprit de corps that can build, the branding opportunities that being at a neutral site can really bring, it will be a chance to continue building the Big South as one of the premier mid-major conferences in the entire country.”
The 2021 combined tournament will feature a minimum eight Big South men’s and women’s basketball teams, and is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday-Sunday, March 2-7, 2021.
In addition to consecutive days of competitive tournament basketball, the Big South Conference plans additional activities around Bojangles’ Coliseum throughout the week, including cheerleading competitions, fan festivals and possibly concerts or eSports events.
“We’re hoping the whole week of competition provides a homecoming-type atmosphere where alumni clubs, boosters, fans and students all have a chance to mingle and network and enjoy Charlotte,” Reveley added.
Conference coaches are excited about deciding their championships at a neutral site, creating the true feeling of March Madness as the teams battle for the Big South’s automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament.
“Charlotte is a great city in the middle of our footprint,” said Gardner-Webb coach Tim Craft, chair of the Big South’s men’s basketball coaches. “Having the tournament there can be a really great thing for our league, especially if we can be there for a number of years and build it into something where Charlotte becomes the home of the Big South tournament.”
The women’s basketball championship, which went to a double-pod format in 2019 with the top two seeds as host for the quarterfinals and semifinals, will be held one week earlier than in previous years, requiring the conference to address regular-season scheduling to accommodate the combined tournaments.
“We are excited about going to Charlotte, the city of our corporate offices,” said Campbell’s Ronny Fisher, chair of the Big South’s women’s basketball coaches. “The coaches are looking forward to having the men’s and women’s programs at the same site for what should be a great week.”
The Big South’s prior combined basketball championships were held from 1997-98 (Lynchburg, Va. – campus), 1999-00 (Asheville, N.C. – neutral), 2001-02 (Roanoke, Va. – neutral) and 2013-15 (Conway, S.C. – campus).
Bojangles’ Coliseum opened in 1955 as the original Charlotte Coliseum, and has played host to iconic college basketball legends David Thompson, Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan, among others in its storied history, as well as major college basketball events such the ACC Tournament from 1968-1970 plus the NCAA Tournament on 13 occasions. Musical acts from Elvis Presley to the Rolling Stones, as well as evangelist Billy Graham appeared in the venue.
The official 2021 Big South Championship tournament formats, plus ticket packages, events and television arrangements, will be announced at a later date when finalized.