Conference announces new site for 2018, 2019 basketball championships

Marshall's Kiana Evans rushes toward the hoop for a two-point shot as the Herd takes on Middle Tennessee for the C-USA Women’s Basketball Semi Finals on Friday in Birmingham, AL.
Lexi Browning
Marshall’s Kiana Evans rushes toward the hoop for a two-point shot as the Herd takes on Middle Tennessee March 11, 2016 for the Conference USA Women’s Basketball Semi Finals in Birmingham, AL.

The 2018 and 2019 Conference USA Basketball Championships will be held at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, commissioner Judy MacLeod announced in a press conference Tuesday. Ford Center at The Star is the home of the Dallas Cowboys’ world headquarters.

“It’s really an exciting day for us,” MacLeod said. “This is what we’re all about. It’s providing the opportunity for all the young men and women and all of our programs. When we first started on this journey, the main goal was to make sure our student-athletes had a unique, memorable and first-class experience.”

Frisco is the eighth location to host the C-USA Men’s Basketball Championship and the 13th host city for the C-USA Women’s Basketball Championship. Conference USA, home of the Marshall Thundering Herd, hosted two women’s basketball tournaments in the Dallas-Metro area, most recently the 2006 C-USA Championship, held at SMU’s Moody Coliseum in Dallas. The 2004 C-USA Championship was held in Fort Worth at TCU’s Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.

A handful of prominent members of the community were on hand for the announcement, such as Frisco Mayor Maher Maso and Jerry Jones, Jr. Jones, Jr., whose father Jerry Jones owns the Dallas Cowboys, said bringing a major college event to The Star has been a goal of his.

“Our vision when we created [The Star] was to make this a venue for high school athletes and collegiate athletes,” Jones, Jr. said. “Having Conference USA host their championships here is at the top of the list.”

Frisco is no stranger to major-collegiate events. The city most recently hosted the 2017 NCAA Division I-AA National Championship Game. The Dallas-Ft. Worth area also hosted 2017 NCAA Women’s Final Four, one of the most successful women’s Final Fours in recent history.

After the success of those events, current-Frisco mayor Maher Maso agreed with Jones, Jr.’s sentiments.

“I always say, Frisco is the number one innovative city in the world,” Maso said. “We’re so excited to have these teams here. We’ll make the same commitment we made to the NCAA [FCS] championships, and that is, to make it a very special event for the student-athletes…we have all the components in place to make this a one-of-a-kind event.”

MacLeod did admit there are some concerns about moving the tournament so far away from a number of schools, particularly those with well-travelled fanbases such as Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee and Marshall. Schools like Old Dominion will have to travel nearly 1,400 miles to reach the tournament destination.

“There’s always a concern, but there are also four schools within driving distance,” MacLeod said. “It was just such a unique opportunity to partner with the Cowboys and our coaches have always wanted to go to a neutral court. Plus, there will be plenty for the fans to do in and around the area.”

While specifics were scarce at the press conference, C-USA did announce Baylor Scott & White Sports Therapy & Research as the presenting sponsor of the tournament. MacLeod also said all 22-combined tournament games will be played under one roof, a change from the last few seasons, where only the women’s semifinals and finals were held at Legacy Arena. All men’s tournament games were played at Legacy Arena.

The University of North Texas will serve as the host school for the tournament. According to Conference USA’s website, nearly 120,000 UNT alumni live within the surrounding four Texas counties of Dallas, Denton, Collin and Tarrant. The website also says more than 25,000 total alums from the other 13 member schools also reside within that area.

The C-USA men’s and women’s postseason tournaments have been held in Birmingham, Alabama for the last three seasons. Marshall’s men’s basketball team entered last season C-USA tournament as a six-seed, making it to the title game before falling to one-seed Middle Tennessee.

Jake Griffith can be contacted at [email protected].