For years, the annual choice to hold the Colonial Athletic Association’s men’s basketball tournament at Richmond Coliseum came under fire from fans of schools outside the borders of Virginia, who felt the location essentially gave teams like VCU, Old Dominion and George Mason a home court advantage.
Anecdotal evidence would seem to have borne that argument out: UNCW is the only team from outside the state borders to win a CAA title since 2000, and James Madison’s auto-bid last year was the first to come from outside the Mason/ODU/VCU triumvirate since 2005.
Of course, that’s largely because none of those three schools will play in the CAA in the future. With the Virginia-based heart of the CAA cut out by realignment, the league tournament has moved to Baltimore, leaving the concrete starship of Richmond Coliseum sadly empty in March.
Then again, the A-10 seems to like the idea of finding a permanent home for the league’s women’s tournament, which has been played at several venues over the past several seasons. The new deal aims to keep the A-10’s women’s teams in Richmond for three years, and possibly beyond. The league’s press release gave a little history behind the move:
When the championship tips off in Richmond, it will mark just the third time in its 32-year history that it will take place at a neutral site. Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Mass., played host in 2011, while Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., served as host in 2010. The Atlantic 10 is one of only eight conferences (out of 31 league) where the women’s basketball championship will be played at a neutral site, separate from the men’s championship.
I can hear the bitter laughter coming from old-school CAA partisans even now. “Neutral” was only uttered with a wry twist during the CAA’s reign in Richmond, as VCU players and fans didn’t even really have to find parking to make the trek to the Coliseum. In the A-10, that distinction will belong to the Rams and the Richmond Spiders. And Mason will be there, too. Still, the Coliseum provides a nice downtown location and plenty of seating for fans who choose to make the trek.