The Ohio Valley Conference has agreed to a three-year contract to keep the men and women’s basketball tournaments in Evansville, Indiana through 2023.
“We are delighted to continue working with Evansville’s outstanding governance and community leaders to build upon the foundation that has been laid to make this an exemplary sporting event for participants and fans alike,” said OVC Commissioner Beth DeBauche in a press release from the OVC.
The decision from the OVC Board of Presidents comes after two successful seasons at the Ford Center in Evansville where fans broke attendance records in back-to-back nights. The 2019 men’s final broke the OVC neutral site record with 10,525 fans, breaking the previous record from the men’s semifinal match with 8,294.
“I think Evansville has done a very good job with the tournaments the last couple of years,” said Scott Corley, Belmont Director of Athletics.
Although Nashville was the tournament’s home for 22 years, the Ford Center has really enhanced both the student athlete and fan experience, Corley said.
“I think the venue is first class,” said Corley.
It also helps Evansville’s case that the last few matches were dramatic closers. Belmont’s women’s team faced the University of Tennessee at Martin in back-to-back championships with the Bruins winning both. The Belmont men’s team also faced Murray State back-to-back years in Evansville, the Racers coming up victorious in both.
Last year was extra special as the Bruins faced second overall NBA draftee-to-be Ja Morant in front of 10,000 fans, including celebrities like Los Angeles Lakers legend, Magic Johnson and NFL wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald.
“When you get great matchups like we’ve had with the last two championship games on the men’s and women’s side both top teams advancing in the tournament,” said Corley. “I think the city has embraced that, it’s evident by the crowds that we saw.”
The new extension will be added to the previous two year contract from 2018-2020. The OVC will have a fourth year option in 2024 which the OVC Board of Presidents will need to accept or decline by the spring of 2022.
Photo by Carina Eudy.