March Madness is nearly upon us and Indianapolis will play an even larger role than usual; the city will play host to five tournaments in three different venues over a three week period, in addition to the Indiana Pacers and the IHSAA state tournament. The Indianapolis-based Horizon League will get things started with its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business sports contributor Bill Benner, Horizon League Commissioner John LeCrone said collaboration among the different conferences has been key.
“March is basketball; basketball is Indy. What a better place than Indianapolis. What a better state than Indiana and we had all these great community partners so we started reaching out,” said LeCrone. “I tell you the collaboration has been unbelievable with the Pacers, with the IHSAA, even with the Fever and I know their season starts a little later, and interestingly with the Big Ten. So the collaboration has been phenomenal.”
The opening round games of the Horizon League tournament begin next week at various campus sites, with the men’s and women’s semifinals at the Coliseum beginning March 9 and the finals taking place the following day.
As part of the collaboration, LeCrone says there will be an officiating symposium as well.
“When you think about officiating, so many young people who have played sports, and we’re talking about all sports, really might have an interest in doing that but they go out and see maybe how some of the officials are treated sometime. We’re trying to address that. We’re trying to bring young people in and say, ‘You know what? This is really a very good avocation. It’s a lot of fun. You’re supporting young people.’ We’re trying to change that culture a little bit and get people interested in officiating.”
The Horizon League is also serving as an institutional co-host of the NCAA Midwest Regionals at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 26 and 28, which LeCrone says will be a prelude to the NCAA Men’s Final Four in Indy next year.
“We have extraordinary community support for that event and the fact that the (NCAA) national headquarters is here and those people are now our friends and our colleagues, it makes our city just almost beyond none when you can have that kind of collaboration for an extraordinary event.”
Indianapolis will also host the Big Ten Men’s and Women’s tournaments at Bankers Life Fieldhouse from March 11-15.