Louisiana Tech is set to bid to host the 2014-15 Conference USA Basketball tournament in Bossier City, La., the Shreveport Times reported Tuesday, and Southern Miss athletic director Bill McGillis said Tuesday that he has also expressed preliminary interest in serving as a host.
The bidding process has yet to begin and the league hasn't even decided when it will start. McGillis said that the conference is simply in the information gathering stage at this point.
While the odds appear against La. Tech getting the right to host, the bid won't be ignored by the conference.
CenturyLink Arena is a 14,000-seat venue that's nice enough to serve as a tournament site, but it's an hour away from Louisiana Tech's campus in Ruston. While the Bulldogs are getting decent crowds this season in Ruston, La. Tech is not known for a fan base that traditionally supports men's basketball.
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McGillis said that USM will explore both Hattiesburg and the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi as potential sites.
Hattiesburg appears unlikely as a tournament site with Reed Green Coliseum potentially undergoing renovations over the next two years. Also, the women's tournament requires a second venue in the same town. It's unlikely that a suitable option for the women's tournament can be found in Hattiesburg.
Biloxi hosted the old Metro Conference Tournament in 1990 and 1994 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, but it's uncertain whether the 11,500-seat arena would meet the conference's standards at this time. Biloxi High School and Gulfport High School, which have very nice high school arenas, could serve as quality options for the women's tournament.
C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky has already mentioned Charlotte as a potential host site in 2014-15, and it should come as no big surprise if the 49ers' do earn the right to host.
UTEP is hosting this season's tournament in El Paso. While the West Texas city is a tough place for many of the league's fans to travel to, the Miners' fans do a good job of supporting the tournament.
Nashville would serve as a great tournament site, but the SEC has the Bridgestone Arena locked down through 2026.
Norfolk, Va., should also get a close look from C-USA if Old Dominion wants to bid for the tournament. The Monarchs have a great arena and the fans there would support the tournament.
Birmingham is the most centrally-located site in the league, but UAB would have to put up the bid to get the tournament. Birmingham could potentially draw fans from Southern Miss, Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky.
Getting the right to host relies on the success of the basketball program, the quality of the arena and the amount of fan support. If one school can put that all together, it can earn multiple conference tournaments. That's how Memphis did it, but there's no program near that level remaining in the league.