July 07, 2008
"The decision to cancel this year's tournament was not of our making or of our choice," said Brian Hove, tournament director. "The escalation in appearance fees precipitated by the 2006 NCAA rule change has effectively priced the Classic out of the market."
Prior to 2006, there were only 10 certified preseason basketball tournaments in the country, including the Classic and Anchorage's Great Alaska Shootout. A rule change in 2006 opened the door for any institution to host a multiple-team event. The 2007 NCAA schedule featured 45 such tournaments, with more planned at schools all over the country this year.
UAF athletics director Forrest Karr said that the growth in tournaments greatly changed how much schools were being paid to participate in tournaments. "We have worked diligently to sell teams on the Alaskan experience, but the landscape has changed," said Karr. "It is now nearly impossible to find a school that will travel to Fairbanks when they can take a bus ride to a neighboring university and receive a game guarantee of $100,000, or more in some cases."
Karr said that the decision was not an easy one to make.
"Many people reviewed the current climate and, unfortunately, nobody can justify spending university general fund money or student fee dollars to entice seven Division I schools to participate in a tournament," he said. "The Classic has been self-sustaining and we felt it needed to continue operating on a fiscally responsible basis."
By November 2006 tournament organizers had signed three teams for the 2008 event: Stanford University, Morehead State University and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. Within the last three months the latter two had dropped out, paying a $30,000 buyout fee in favor of participating in higher-paying events closer to home.
In the meantime, UAF secured commitments from Bradley University, University of Central Florida and Austin Peay State University, leaving the university three teams shy of completing the eight-team field. Karr said significant effort was given to just finding one more team and creating a six-team tournament, with the university fully committed to putting extra funds toward the endeavor. Even with that effort, the university was unable to secure the sixth team.
"No matter how disheartening, it's critical to operate with integrity," said Karr. "We set July 1 as the cutoff date and felt that if we could not secure a sixth team by then, we had no choice but to let the teams currently under contract pursue other options."
Karr said that the university is focused now on discussing options with the community organizing committee, sponsors and staff to potentially develop a new format that will allow UAF and Fairbanks to have a basketball tournament beginning again in 2009 and for the foreseeable future.
Hove said that while this year's circumstances are unfortunate, it was important to remember the tournament's successes over the years, particularly in the area of hospitality.
"Much of the success the Classic has enjoyed over the years can be directly attributed to the dedication of the various committee chairs, committee volunteers, host families and sponsors who have supported this event since 1996," said Hove. "BP, in particular, is to be thanked for its support as title sponsor.
"Every participating team dating back to the inaugural event has departed Fairbanks having thoroughly enjoyed the experience," said Hove. "I don't believe Hawaii, Puerto Rico or any tournament can match the hospitality and warmth these teams have enjoyed over the years at the Top of the World Classic."
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