The Madness will be back in two years at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
The NCAA on Tuesday awarded a Division I men’s basketball regional to Jacksonville for 2019, which will mark the fourth time in 13 years the city has been a part of what has become known as “The Big Dance” or “March Madness.”
The city hosted early-round NCAA basketball tournament games in 2006, 2010 and 2015 at the Veterans Arena. The Florida Gators won two games in Jacksonville in 2006 on their way to their first national championship, and Duke won twice in 2010, also going onto the Final Four and winning the national title.
North Carolina and Arkansas were the two winners from Jacksonville in 2015.
“We have worked on this for the past year, and I think our track record from hosting in 2006, 2010 and 2015 spoke for itself,” said Alan Verlander, executive director and chief operating officer for the Jacksonville Sports Council. “We’re very excited to welcome March Madness back to Jacksonville.”
Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida will be the host institutions for the NCAA games in the city, which is the only Florida site with an NCAA regional for the next two years. Tampa was awarded a regional for 2020.
The NCAA regional sites for the 2017-2018 season are Pittsburgh, Wichita, Dallas, Boise, Charlotte, Detroit, Nashville and San Diego. The regional finals are at Atlanta, Los Angeles, Boston and Omaha.
The next four Final Four sites, beginning in 2018, are San Antonio, Minneapolis, Atlanta and Indianapolis.
In addition to basketball, the city learned it would host an NCAA regional men’s and women’s track meet at UNF’s Hodges Stadium in 2019 and 2021. UNF hosted a regional last year, in 2015 and 2012.
Past economic impacts have pegged the value of holding the basketball early round games between $5 million to $7 million.
The city also attempted to land NCAA national tournaments in men’s and women’s golf and fencing, but was not successful. The NCAA awarded the men’s and women’s golf championship to Oklahoma State in 2018 and Arkansas in 2019, and fencing to Cleveland in 2019, Detroit in 2020, Penn State in 2021 and Notre Dame in 2022.
“We will continue to put the line in the water for events that drive economic impact and amplify our brand on a national stage,” said Dave Herrell, the city’s sports and entertainment officer. “Jacksonville will compete. We are grateful for the teamwork and collaboration that went into securing these future NCAA events, and we can’t wait to serve as hosts.”
The city’s proposal for golf was to hold the tournament at the World Golf Hall of Fame King & Bear course. Verlander said that the city will re-submit a bid for the golf for 2020 and beyond, and noted that the NCAA went out only two years for the golf and four years for all other sports.
The NCAA golf tournaments, which would have begun the last week of May and go into the second week of June, bump closely to The Players Championship’s mid-May date. However, the PGA Tour is considering a move back to March for The Players as early as 2019, with a decision likely coming later this year.
The proposal for fencing was to hold the event at the Prime Osborn Center.
“We just wanted to take a swing at that and try to bring a new sport to Jacksonville,” Verlander said. “We’re happy with what we got in basketball and track.”
The NCAA chose more than 600 host sites for preliminary rounds and finals in Divisions I, II, and III to be held from 2017-18 through 2021-22.
The NCAA received more than 3,000 bid submissions from NCAA member schools, conferences, sports commissions and cities vying to host predetermined rounds for 84 of the NCAA’s 90 championships. A total of 613 sites were awarded for this cycle. The respective NCAA sports committees and the divisional championships cabinets/committees reviewed the bid proposals, and selected the sites.
There were 43 states selected to host at least one round of an NCAA championship, with Pennsylvania leading the way with a total of 53. Florida was awarded the second most with 51, while Indiana totaled 41, the third highest. Buoyed with a total of six fall championships for the 2018 Division II National Championships Festival, Pittsburgh was awarded 22 preliminary rounds and finals, the most of any city.