WASHINGTON — The Big Ten Conference announced Tuesday that its 2017 men’s basketball tournament will be held at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.
It will be the first time the event is hosted on the East Coast after calling either Chicago and Indianapolis home for its first 17 years. The tournament will be held in Chicago for the ninth time in 2015 before returning to Indianapolis for the 10th time in 2016.
Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson and Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon joined Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany to make the announcement at a press conference Tuesday. Maryland and Rutgers will officially join the Big Ten on July 1. Delany said after discussing options to move the tournament to the East Coast with coaches, athletic directors and presidents, the conference zeroed in on the Verizon Center in the last five months.
“At the time that Maryland came in, we set, I think, an aggressive goal to live in two regions of the country,” Delany said. “Those were our words and we’ve been working awful hard the last 18 months to turn words into actions, and I think we should be judged not by our words but by our actions. This is our first opportunity to put a major event that the conference sponsors into the Eastern corridor.”
The 2017 tournament will take place Wednesday, March 8, through Sunday, March 12. The conference sold out its last two tournaments held in Chicago in 2013 and Indianapolis in 2014.
The decision is all part of the Big Ten’s marketing plan to expand its brand into the East.
The conference announced Monday at Madison Square Garden that it will compete in the Gavitt Tipoff Games, a series between the Big Ten and Big East named in honor of Big East founder Dave Gavitt. The series is set to last eight years and will feature eight games each season to be played at home sites.
Delany said the Big Ten plans to hold the tournament on the East Coast beyond 2017.
“I think these events will live in the East as well as in the Midwest,” Delany said. “We’re fortunate to have a fabulous array of venues in the Midwest. There’s some great ones on the East Coast. The precise ratio is unclear to me, but it will be regular. It will be a rotation and I think that what we need to do, is we have a variety of other interests, which we have to integrate into that cycle.”
Delany said he understands change will be difficult for fans of the conference’s Midwest schools. But he said it also generates new possibilities for its three schools in the East — Penn State, Maryland and Rutgers.
Anderson, Maryland’s athletic director, said Tuesday’s announcement was exciting for his campus, which is a short drive away from the Verizon Center.
Turgeon was pleased to see early discussions between Maryland and the Big Ten come to fruition quickly.
“When we first met with Jim, he said we’re gonna have a face on the East Coast,” Turgeon said. “A lot of times, it’s lip service when you’re joining a league, and he came through as quickly as he could come through with 2017 having it here in D.C.
“So that means a lot to Maryland basketball and means a lot to our athletic department and means a lot to our fans. Our fans are gonna be real excited about the opportunity.”