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Madison Square Garden did not submit a bid to host the ACC Tournament. For a conference seemingly hell-bent on destroying the Big East, this is a huge missed opportunity.
Perhaps I take a bigger interest in this story than the public at large because I just like New York City so damn much, but ESPN's Brett McMurphy figuratively punched me in the gut yesterday morning:
The deadline to bid for the 2016-21 ACC's men's basketball tournaments has passed, and Madison Square Garden did not submit a bid, sources told ESPN. The 2013-15 ACC men's basketball tournaments will be held in Greensboro, N.C.
A decision for where the 2016-21 ACC tournaments will be held will be made in the coming months. The Barclays Center in Brooklyn also did not submit a bid.
Big East and Madison Square Garden officials also are continuing discussions about extending the Big East's current deal with the Garden, sources told ESPN. The Big East's current deal with MSG runs through 2016. The length of the extension being discussed is 10 years, which would lock up the Garden through 2026, the New York Post reported.
We're the new kids here, but I'm completely comfortable calling this a failure of leadership at the ACC and John Swofford. If the plan was to kill the Big East - and I've always been convinced that's the conference's long-term goal - then this is a disaster. The ACC's biggest competitor can now solidify its perilous claim of the New York with a premier event in the Mecca of college basketball. It also now has enormous leverage in its financial negotiations with The MSG Company now that there's no competition for the venue. Not the best strategy if the goal is to financially starve a nearby rival.
As much as this is a win for the Big East, it's an even bigger loss to the ACC. Yes, people go to the current Big East Tournament to see great basketball, but it's the draw of the Big Apple and Madison Square Garden that makes it that much easier to part with the dollars and the time off work necessary to travel for a basketball tournament as a vacation. And that's what it is if you go to these sorts of thing - a vacation. Sure there's a lot (A LOT) of basketball. But there's also sightseeing. And shopping. And shows. And all the other little things that make New York City a more attractive locale than Greensboro or pretty much anywhere else in the country. No other city under consideration - including our beloved 'Burgh - can even come close to offering fans what New York City can. And because of that, the ACC Tournament will fail to grow beyond whatever amount of tickets Pitt and Syracuse fans will consume to see their team play non-guaranteed games in Greensboro.
Obviously, John Swofford can't make the Garden bid on the conference tournament. But I can't imagine that some proactive "suggestions" from the ACC and its new BFF ESPN wouldn't have prompted the Garden to submit a bid. I don't think it's too far out to speculate (and warning: this is total speculation) that the appeasement of the Carolina teams had something to do with this disaster. The ACC Tournament is essentially a North Carolina tournament. Since 1990, the tournament has left the state of North Carolina exactly five times. And there's still a three-year contract to play in Greensboro. In a lot of ways, that made sense. But with the conference's northern expansion and the unprecedented opportunity shine a brighter spotlight on its marquee event while landing a crushing blow to the Big East, the ACC essentially passed.
I'm sure Greensboro is a nice place. Pittsburgh's a nice place that submitted a bid too. But neither city is New York. Not even close.