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Carle's Corner: Community-wide effort makes NCAA tourney a big hit (3-21-12) PDF Print E-mail
Written by By JACK CARLE Sentinel Sports Editor   
Wednesday, 21 March 2012 15:49
All those involved should give themselves a pat on the back and high-five everyone else who helped, attended a game, or supported in any way the NCAA women’s first and second round basketball games.
Spearheaded by Bowling Green State University, the effort was community wide as Bowling Green and Northwest Ohio proved it can handle things on a national stage. The Stroh Center was the site of three games earlier this week and things went very well.
“I’m not sure it could have gone any better for us,” said Lesley Irvine, associate athletics director of sports administration and senior woman administrator at BGSU. “We’re confident that the four teams had a good experience here.
“We’re just thrilled that it came together in a very positive community event, from the university to the town to the teams,” she added. “We were really pleased to see 12 months of planning be executed.”
Of course it helped to have the No. 1 team in the nation in Baylor and in-state Big Ten power Ohio State as two of the four teams. Florida and UC Santa Barbara were the other two teams.
“We were disappointed that we were not here, but BG hit a home run in terms of attraction to put on a great first and second round here ... It couldn’t have worked out better for Bowling Green,” BG women’s head coach Curt Miller said.
While many on the national level would have preferred to have Baylor in a venue which could have showcased the talents of Lady Bears’ Brittney Griner to a larger audience, the Bowling Green fans did not disappoint and they also deserve a well-done for supporting the event.
Many local fans adopted Griner, nicknamed ‘BG’ and it did not hurt that the talented 6-foot-8 Griner was a force in both games.
Each game drew over 4,000 fans with the real test coming Tuesday night when Florida played Baylor with Baylor winning to go to the Sweet 16.
With Ohio State losing on Sunday, many thought the Stroh Center would be about half full for the Tuesday night game.
However, the fans responded and 4,097 showed up. The average attendance for the NCAA second round games was 3,561.
Many of them were just fans of women’s basketball and they were able to watch Baylor roll past Florida.
During the course of Tuesday’s game Griner became only the second woman to dunk in an NCAA game.
“Let me say this, I was excited that people were in the stands,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “I was concerned that all the Ohio State people would not come back or would not give their tickets to somebody.
“To walk out there and see a full house, you appreciate your women’s basketball,” Mulkey continued. “People came out and there really weren’t Baylor or Florida fans here ... I appreciate it.”
Irvine said the attendance, especially on Tuesday, was a testament of the popularity of women’s basketball in the area.
“To hear Kim talk about that really made me proud in terms of the community we have,” Irvine said. “That is what you live for as a student-athlete to play in front of a packed crowd. To be able to provide that experience for them just really gives me goose-bumps.”
And while Florida lost on Tuesday night, the Gators showed their appreciation by leaving a thank you note to Bowling Green on the dry erase board in their locker room.
Irvine said the event also helped bring together different areas of BGSU that might not normally work together, to successfully stage the tournament.
The city of Bowling Green also benefitted with the fans supporting the local businesses.
“I did talk to the businesses downtown and they definitely had business they normally wouldn’t have had,” said Wendy Stram, executive director of the Bowling Green Convention & Visitors Bureau. “I would like to thank the community for putting their best foot forward and welcoming the visitors.”
With ESPN2 televising the three games, there was a great opportunity for national exposure for both Bowling Green and BGSU.
“I  thought about that sitting in the stands that our big Falcon head was on national TV. You don’t get that national spotlight everyday. That was really special,” Stram said.
And while the tournament has just ended, BGSU is looking forward to hosting another major event in the future.
“We went into this knowing that we wanted to do it the right way, and we also want to be considered to do this in the future,” Irvine said. “We want to use that facility (Stroh Center) to get national exposure for the university and the department and the town.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 22 March 2012 07:51
 

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