By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
When the Colonels cut down the nets in Nashville Saturday after winning the OVC Tournament the team’s work was done until today — when they start preparing for their NCAA Tournament game next week.
The basketball team got a few days off to enjoy the spoils of victory, but once those nets came down, the work was only beginning for the EKU athletics department administrators.
They are the ones charged with the huge task of implementing a plan to transport not only the basketball team, but also the pep band, cheerleaders, mascot and support staff to whichever venue the Colonels get placed at for their NCAA Tournament matchup.
And oh, by the way, that location will not be known until after the NCAA Selection Show, which will air on CBS at 6 p.m. Sunday.
If that’s not daunting enough, there is also the little task of putting together a selection show viewing party for the team and fans at the EKU Center for the Arts, as well as accommodating all the media requests from local, regional and national media outlets.
It’s a lot of work, Acting Director of Athletics, Simon Gray said, but thankfully the NCAA is a well-oiled machine when it comes to its signature event.
“The NCAA has a 77-page participation manual that has everything spelled out. They have policies on everything you can and can not do, so it is basically figuring out how we fit our stuff into what they have allotted,” Gray said. “One of the nice things is that we were one of the first tournaments that is over so we have a full week to prepare.”
The NCAA rules are meant to insure that all teams in the tournament field are treated equally.
Each university party is limited to 75 individuals. The official team travel party makes up 22 of those positions, 29 slots are reserved for pep band members and a sponsor, 12 slots for cheerleaders and a coach and a mascot, with the other spots are comprised of university and athletic department administrators.
Each school can also bring a dance team, but those are not counted against the school’s 75-person contingent.
Prior to Sunday’s announcement of their destination, Gray said, his staff has to enter the school’s contact and travel information, including air and bus travel preferences, into the NCAA’s travel system.
The NCAA arranges all the travel for each team from the preferred airport or using the preferred bus system if the venue is close enough to drive to, Gray said.
He and his staff have spent most of this week organizing the viewing party at the EKU Arts Center. Doors open for the event at 4:30 p.m. The selection show begins at 6 p.m. and a free concert by Sunday Best will follow at 7 p.m.
Coach Jeff Neubauer will introduce team members and speak to fans prior to the selection show.
Free T-shirts will be available for the first 2,500 fans. Fans will have an opportunity to take pictures with the OVC Championship trophy.
It’s a lot of work, but it’s something that Gray, Athletics Director Mark Sandy and their team have done before. They both had experience with NCAA tournaments while at the University of Richmond and also in 2007 when the Colonels last made the tournament field and traveled to Winston-Salem N.C. to play North Caroline, all of which makes the task this time much easier, Gray said.
It is a lot of work for his staff, Gray said, but its all worth it when they see the faces of their students athletes.
“It’s just so wonderful to be on that stage for our student athletes,” Gray said. “They have watched the tournament on TV all their lives and now they are a part of the tournament and all the things that surround it.”