Atlantic-10 Brings Championship Basketball to Brooklyn
September 28, 2011
NEW YORK—The Atlantic 10 Conference announced that it has formed a five-year partnership with the Barclays Center to bring the A-10 men’s basketball tournament to Brooklyn and the new arena, beginning in 2013. The joint announcement was made Wednesday afternoon.
When the Barclays Center of Brooklyn opens its doors next year, the main tenants are going to be the NBA’s Nets, who move to a new home (and hometown). But with a full year’s slate to fill, the arena aims to provide an extensive variety of sports and entertainment programming, and Wednesday’s announcement of a five-year partnership with the Atlantic 10, beginning in 2013, provides the Barclays Center with a flagship men’s basketball championship tournament to complement the recently announced Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
“You look at the history of Brooklyn and how many great professional players have come out of the borough, it’s a natural for us to truly be a big player in college sports,” said Brett Yormark, President and Chief Executive Officer of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which runs the arena. “The building was truly built for basketball, and we think a foundation for that movement is certainly a big-time tournament where its championship game is on CBS, which gives great exposure to the borough and to the building. Partnering with the Atlantic 10 was, I think, natural. And we’re really excited about it.”
Atlantic 10 commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade brings her conference tournament to Brooklyn from Atlantic City, N.J., where they will play at Boardwalk Hall this spring. After a successful run, McGlade said that the City hoped to extend the deal for two seasons, but the opportunity provided by the Barclays Center and placing the tournament in New York – with its dense, basketball-savvy population, and a built-in fan base of more than 100,000 Atlantic 10 alumni – prompted the switch.
Explaining her rationale at the press conference, McGlade cited the “insatiable hunger” for great sporting events and a stated goal of ensuring the A-10 Championship becomes one of the premier tournaments at the collegiate level. Declaring the Atlantic 10 “the best basketball-only conference in the country,” she termed it fitting that its championship would be held in the best basketball venue in the best city in the United States.
“I believe this is a conference that knows its lot in life: we are a basketball conference,” McGlad said. “Right now, we see a lot of decisions being driven with conferences by the football programs and realignment, and we wanted to be in a very proactive position to make positive decisions that enhance basketball, and we feel like this is one of them. We feel like we’re coming from a position of strength, and we’ve had a good run of success in our most recent history.”
The Atlantic 10 Conference has numerous ties to the Brooklyn area, most notably nearby member school Fordham (just two boroughs away in the Bronx) with its Brooklyn-born and Queens-raised coach, Tom Pecora. The former Hofstra coach said during the conference that this marks the first step in the rebirth of college basketball in New York City.
Fellow bench denizen Jim Baron, the head coach at Rhode Island, holds even stronger ties, having grown up in Brooklyn’s Cooper Houses, near the Greenpoint-Williamsburg border. An A-10 lifer with more than 25 years in the conference, dating back to his undergraduate experience playing for St. Bonaventure, Baron believes the exposure to high-quality collegiate basketball will further open the eyes of Brooklyn youth, offering options for quality college educations up and down the East Coast, as far south as North Carolina.
“I think that this is going to be special, having this arena, having Brett involved, having (Nets investor) Jay-Z involved,” Baron said. “You’re talking about kids dreaming to come into this arena. Now, you not only have professional sports, you also have college sports, where all of a sudden you see these kids that are being student-athletes, and then you’re identifying with them. It’s just like Jay-Z has helped the community with bringing this to Brooklyn, we want to try, as a conference, to help the community with the development of these young people.”