It’s not the Oscars, but for Tarleton State University it might as well as be.
Tarleton and the City of Stephenville are rolling out the red carpet this week, in an effort to make the 2008 NCAA Division II men’s basketball South Central Regional Tournament a first-class event.
“Everything we do is in an effort to provide the student-athletes with the best experience possible,” said Tarleton Associate Athletics Director Susan Burton. “We want them to take positive memories away from this that they can keep with them the rest of their lives.”
Because Tarleton Athletics Director Lonn Reisman is busy with his “second job” - coaching the top-seeded Texans - Burton and Troy Jones, assistant to the AD for internal and external operations, are leading the behind-the-scenes effort to ensure the 2008 regional is an even greater success than those hosted at Wisdom Gym in 2003 and 2004.
“That gives us a tremendous leg up,” Jones, who is the tournament director, said of having prior experience hosting the regionals. “Having done it before, we know what to expect, and we know what it takes to manage everything.”
Jones says he also plans to incorporate new ideas he picked up while assisting Lone Star Conference Commissioner Stan Wagnon in running last week’s Lone Star Conference Tournament in Bartlesville, Okla.
Burton, who is in charge of tickets, marketing and promotions for the tournament, says most people have no idea what it takes to manage an event of this magnitude.
In January, with the Texans sitting atop the regional poll on a weekly basis, Burton began the preliminary preparations in case another Stephenville regional became a reality.
“Bids had to be turned in by February 8,” she explained. “With the bids, we have to send proof that we have enough hotel rooms to provide each team with 15 double-double, non-smoking rooms. After that, it’s all about getting the top seed.”
Jones says beginning preparations in advance is the only way to have everything ready before the arrival of visiting teams.
“If you wait until selection Sunday to start getting ready, you’ll never make it in time,” he said. “It would be absolutely impossible.”
Burton and Tarleton even took preliminary preparations as far as pre-printing tickets.
“Printing tickets in advance is a risk,” Burton said. “But when you’re at or near the top of the regional poll all year, it’s a risk you can justify taking.”
Burton said the printing of all-session and reserved all-session tickets was done internally, as was the printing of tournament credentials. Only the general admission tickets were printed externally.
After the selection committee announced Tarleton as the No. 1 seed Sunday evening, a whirlwind of activity took place.
Jones and Burton began their Monday with a 90-minute conference call with representatives of participating schools, during which everything ranging from hotel accommodations for teams’ 20-member travel parties to seating for bands and cheerleaders was discussed.
“The call lasted from 9 a.m. until 10:30 a.m.,” Jones explained, “and even after all that, our phones are still ringing constantly with people requesting things.”
Besides arrangements for the visitors, there is the issue of increasing the game-time staff at Wisdom Gym. Jones and Burton said it takes anywhere from 20-25 individuals on staff to host a regular-season game, but that at least 50 must be on hand at the regional.
And then, with ticket distribution, travel accommodations and staffing in place, the work begins - and a great amount of work it is.
Tomorrow, in part two of Rollin’ Out the Red Carpet, take a look at the physical effort of preparing Wisdom Gym and the Tarleton campus to host this prestigious event.