We are less than a week removed from the SAC Holiday Tournament, with Homestead cutting down the nets as champions of both the boys and girls events.
There was plenty of excitement over four days at Wayne High School, but also plenty of empty seats. Even the crowds at Friday’s semifinals/finals on the boys’ side left a lot to be desired.
The word “stale” is probably the wrong one, but we have grown comfortable with the format, the teams and the atmosphere of the annual event. So we at Outside the Huddle began to wonder how the premier regular-season tournament in the area could be injected with new life and excitement.
Here are five ideas we came up with.
1. EXPAND THE TOURNAMENT TO 16 TEAMS
The SAC Holiday Tournament field has been between 8 and 10 schools for many years. Despite the influx of intrigue with the likes of Carroll and Homestead, we have settled in to a familiarity with the 10 schools that may be a tad uninteresting for some to make the drive out to Wayne.
But what if the tournament was expanded?
What if Canterbury, Blackhawk Christian and four others joined the party?
Blackhawk Christian has become one of the top programs in the area, regardless of class. What Marc Davidson has built at the 1A school off East State is nothing short of impressive.
Meanwhile, Canterbury under Chase Sanders has adopted an up-tempo style that fits right in with some of the schools in the SAC. The Cavaliers beat Bishop Luers in November and are only going to get more competitive in the coming years.
That gets us to 12. Let’s add Leo in, as well as New Haven, two solid Allen County programs. We are at 14. Actually, let’s make it all four East Allen County Schools teams and bring in Heritage and Woodlan as well.
Not only does this add some intrigue (particularly on the boys side), it also adds some schools with fan bases relatively close to Wayne, outside of Woodlan and Leo.
2. ADD SLAM DUNK/THREE-POINT EVENTS
Yeah, these kinds of events could be a bit tacky, but the fans that consistently turn out for the tournament would love it. They love flash. They love dunks. They love exciting, high-flying play.
What if you had a slam dunk/three-point event between the girls and boys finals? You would not have players from the final participating of course (think NFL Pro Bowl), but otherwise you could have players from eight boys teams participate. For the girls, all teams will be able to take part in the three-point shootout.
Maybe have some “celebrity” judges or people from the crowd vote for the dunk winner?
3. MORE CENTRAL LOCATION
Look, Outside the Huddle loves the people at Wayne High School. We see the same smiling faces and great personalities each and every year working the event. They legitimately enjoy working multiple days over Christmas to put on the best tournament they can. If it was physically possible to pick up Wayne HS and move it closer to the center of Fort Wayne, we would be all for it.
Unfortunately, current technology does not offer us that opportunity. Wayne is not surrounded by the best of options in terms of restaurants or things to do between games (although we love you Bandido’s). It is also an absolute haul from schools like Homestead, Carroll and Northrop.
Moving the tournament to a different location could work wonders. Is there a perfect option out there? Not really. Perhaps if the downtown arena came to fruition at some point? Would either Snider or North Side – both closer to the schools up north and west – be open to hosting? Interesting proposal, but if anyone else was open to hosting, we would probably have a rotation of hosts by now.
4. DO NOT GOUGE PEOPLE FOR MONEY
When the format changed a few years ago to where the girls-boys championships were not back to back, we all got the sense of what it was. After all, if you wanted to watch both finals, you had to pay twice now instead of once.
When Summit City Sports went to a pay-per-view format for the semifinals and championship this year in a monetary arrangement with the SAC, we knew what that was too.
People only have a limited amount of disposable income in which to spend. There are a myriad of options for people to spend their money, particularly around the holidays. Giving fans more bang for their buck (more games for their entry fee), the better.
People can listen to the games on the radio and watch via stream, but the SAC Holiday Tournament is still a destination spot for many kids and adults each December. Don’t make it less affordable for them to enjoy it.
5. KICK HOMESTEAD OUT
OK, we don’t really mean this, although some teams may want to.
This year, of the five SAC tournaments around the holidays – boys varsity, JV and freshmen as well as girls varsity and JV – Homestead won all five.
The dominance of the Spartans girls program is not going away anytime soon, while the boys’ first-ever tournament title this year may be just the beginning.
Perhaps what would best serve fans of the holiday tournament would be the departure of Homestead’s top coaching duo of Chris Johnson and Rod Parker, although we don’t see that happening anytime soon.
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