CAA officials have 'informally talked' about future of men's basketball tournament in city

Will the CAA men's basketball tournament stay in Baltimore after the 2015-16 season?

The Colonial Athletic Association is committed for the next two years to having its men’s basketball tournament at Royal Farms Arena, but what happens after the 2015-16 season is up in the air.

League commissioner Tom Yeager said officials from the CAA and Baltimore’s tourism agency have met for informal talks on renewing the conference’s contract to keep the tournament here. He said an announcement could be made by the time the tournament begins March 6.

“We’ve informally talked with the Visit Baltimore folks with the desire that we’d liked to extend, and they would like to have us back,” Yeager said during Tuesday’s CAA basketball media day at The Center Club in Baltimore. “I think over the next couple months, we’ll work some more. The normal course of something like that would be to try to make a decision around tournament time in March. We’ve been very excited and pleased.

"Our fans love Baltimore, and we have some new things that we and the Visit Baltimore folks talked about. We had our ADs meeting yesterday, and we talked about upcoming tournament plans and stuff, and we want to really build on what we had last year and improve on it. So we’re started to work on it. Everything has been so positive, and we want to keep the momentum going.”

In its first year in Baltimore, the four-day tournament -- which had been based in Richmond, Va., for more than two decades -- drew 19,065 fans last March. The final between eventual titlist Delaware and William and Mary had an announced 5,414.

“I want every seat sold all the time,” Yeager said. “So I might not be based in reality a little bit. My staff keeps telling me, ‘You’re coming off of an experience of 24 years in one place. Think back to the first year.’ We want more people to be here, but that’s on us. We want to encourage those fans in Baltimore. March Madness is such a unique thing. You can go to college basketball games during that course of the season that are big games and such, but when you get to March and you get to the conference tournaments and the NCAA tournaments, it’s a completely different animal.

"There hasn’t been much exposure in Baltimore proper over the years. So I think there were a lot of local fans that also saw the games and saw the atmosphere and the excitement and thought, ‘Hey, this is really cool. I’m coming back.’”

Towson has been open about its support of keeping the tournament in Baltimore. Northeastern coach Bill Coen gave his endorsement Tuesday.

“Richmond was a terrific venue, and we had some exciting times down there, but I thought for a first year here in Baltimore, it was a tremendous success with the crowds at the game and the logistics,” he said. “Just being able to come together as a big CAA family was just a great opportunity.”

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