Southern Miss

USM close to finalizing C-USA tourney bid for Biloxi, Hattiesburg

Southern Miss is working out the details on a bid to host the 2015 Conference USA men's and women's basketball tournaments in either Biloxi or Hattiesburg, athletic director Bill McGillis said Friday.

McGillis revealed in February that the athletic department was looking into bidding for the tournaments, and he said Friday that the school is drawing close to finalizing a bid that will be submitted to the league next week. A vote will be held in mid-May on who will host the tournament.

“We are really crunching the numbers and kind of defining the case for it,” McGillis said. “We may propose either the Coast or Hattiesburg, or both. We're just analyzing data and information with the potential revenue.”

The Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, which was constructed in 1977 and has a capacity of 11,500, and Reed Green Coliseum in Hattiesburg are the two potential venues for the men's tournament.

USM twice hosted the Metro Conference basketball tournament in Biloxi in 1990 and 1994, but has never hosted a league basketball tournament in Hattiesburg.

While both Hattiesburg and Biloxi are being considered for the bid, Hattiesburg is likely hindered by the lack of a second venue to host the women's tournament. McGillis mentioned the Payne Center, a campus recreational sports facility, as one option for the women's tournament in Hattiesburg.

Conference USA holds its men's and women's basketball tournaments concurrently in the same town. The first three rounds of the women's tournament are held in a second venue before the semifinals and finals are moved to the main arena.

There are also challenges in finding a second venue in Biloxi, but McGillis said that USM is looking at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention Center and high school facilities in the area as potential sites for the women's tournament.

The Convention Center is located adjacent to the Coast Coliseum, making it an ideal option for the women's tournament if it can be adjusted to host the event.

McGillis said that a portable court can be constructed inside the Convention Center and portable bleachers can be moved in to bring capacity to approximately 1,000.

El Paso, Texas, served as the C-USA Tournament site this season and the women's tournament was held in Memorial Gym, which had to receive upgrades similar to what will be needed at the Convention Center - such as a videoboard and scoreboard.

Louisiana Tech announced in February that it will bid to host the tournaments in Bossier City, La., which has the 14,000-seat CenturyLink Center.

The Birmingham News reported Friday that UAB is considering its own bid for the 2015 basketball tournaments.

Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky previously mentioned Charlotte as another option to serve as a host.

“Of all the sites that I'm aware of, I think (the Coast) is the best destination,” McGillis said. “You have great hotel opportunities and have access to the beach and entertainment. There's a history of college basketball there. I think as a destination for everybody in the league, it's a place very attractive to fans and that's why I'm excited about the possibility.”