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City awaits word on NCAA championship bids

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

For the Detroit Sports Commission, the wait is nearly over.

After applying to host 15 NCAA championship events in nine sports from 2019-22 in August, the DSC will find out if it has been awarded any when the NCAA announces the hosts and sites at 1 p.m.Tuesday.

Among the events the DSC bid on to host in 2019, 2020, 2021 or 2022 are the first and second and regional rounds of the men’s NCAA Tournament, the men’s Frozen Four hockey championship, and the Division I and Division III wrestling championships.

“It’s important to have all of these events in our community,” DSC director Kris Smith said. “That being said, we’re really looking forward to having a great day tomorrow.

“We also understand the percentages and understand the number of events that we bid on. Obviously with 54 bids out there right now, it’d be extremely difficult to get all 54 bids. Matter of fact, it’s impossible. I think that if we come out with a select three, four, five events, we’d be ecstatic.”

The commission partnered with the University of Detroit Mercy, Oakland University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Adrian College, Olympia Entertainment, the Lions and Red Wings for its submissions.

The NCAA was originally scheduled to reveal the hosts and sites in December, but the process was backed up when it relocated seven championship games out of North Carolina after the state passed a controversial bathroom bill.

“It’s caused for some anxious nights but what it also did is it gave us an opportunity to do a little more homework and position ourselves a little bit better by at least going and visiting some of the events that we could and talking to some folks,” Smith said. “That doesn’t guarantee you anything, but we hope that it helps our case.”

The DSC has brought several high-profile collegiate events to Detroit over the years, including the Frozen Four in 2010 and the Final Four in 2009.

The commission has also hosted the 2015 and 2017 Big Ten hockey tournament, the Horizon League men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, the Great Lakes Invitational, the Mid-American Conference football championship and the Quick Lane Bowl.

According to an April 7 report by the Boston Herald, Detroit’s new Little Caesars Arena is expected to be named the venue for the 2019 Frozen Four. Detroit has hosted the Division I hockey championship six times: 1977 and 1979 at Olympia Stadium; 1985, 1987 and 1990 at Joe Louis Arena; and 2010 at Ford Field.

“I think there’s obviously a reason (the Frozen Four) comes here,” Smith said. “It could be the fact that this is Hockeytown, it could be the community supports it well.

“When you sit back and take a look at the overall calendar of events that we have in this community, I think those — not just our history with specific events like wrestling or with the Frozen Four or even with basketball being out in Auburn Hills in the past — you can see success there and we are certainly hoping that that helps us in this situation.”

The DSC is also bidding on several events for the first time, including the Division II men’s and women’s golf championships and the national collegiate fencing championships.

“I think that we had our eyes on (Division II golf) for a while and we’d be truly elated to get that one in here,” Smith said. “With the success that we’ve had with fencing events here in this area and with traditional, powerhouse teams at the University of Detroit Mercy and Wayne State, historically, it would be another significant win for us. … Obviously when you talk about some of the larger events, like basketball, we would love to see that happen.

“There’s no set combination that we’re looking for. There aren’t certain events we’re looking at over others. We’re really just hoping that we hear a good three, four, five events come out of this mix tomorrow to be able to call this a success for this area.”

It’s been a lengthy process — over a year since bid specifications were published on Feb. 1, 2016 — but Smith hopes the hours of hard work will pay off and help Detroit reclaim its place on the mantle of sports.

“I think that it’s a recognition of the efforts that are being done here in Detroit, that are underway here in Detroit. It’s about the recognition of the partnerships that we have in the community and all of the schools that we’re involved with,” Smith said. “I think it’s also a recognition of the efforts of the Ilitch family, the Dan Gilberts of the world, the city as a whole is standing back up. It’s a recognition of the hard work that community has done and just getting back out there. ...

“It’s a recognition of the work that has gone on here to reposition this community as a leader and as a stalwart in the sports community.”

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

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Detroit Sports Commission bids

■Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament First and Second Rounds

Years: March 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

Hosts: University of Detroit Mercy and Oakland University

Venue: Little Caesars Arena

■Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament Regional

Years: March 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

Hosts: University of Detroit Mercy and Oakland University

Venue: Little Caesars Arena

■Division I Men’s College Wrestling Championships

Years: March 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

Host: University of Michigan

Venue: Little Caesars Arena

■Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Frozen Four

Years: April 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

Host: Michigan State University

Venue: Little Caesars Arena

■Division I Men’s and Women’s Golf Championships

Years: May 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

Host: Oakland University

Venue: Katke Cousins Golf Course

■Division II and Division III Football Championships

Years: December 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021

Hosts: Wayne State University and Adrian College

Venue: Ford Field

■Division II Softball Championship

Years: May 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

Host: Wayne State University

Venue: WSU Softball Field

■Division II Men’s and Women’s Golf Championships

Years: May 2019, 2021, 2022

Host: Wayne State University

Venue: TPC Michigan

■Division III Baseball Championships

Years: May 2019

Host: Adrian College

Venue: Detroit PAL/Willie Horton Field of Dreams

■Division III Wrestling Championships

Years: March 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

Host: Adrian College

Venue: Cobo Center

■National Collegiate Women’s Bowling Championships

Years: April 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

Host: University of Detroit Mercy

Venue: Thunderbowl Lanes

■National Collegiate Fencing Championships

Years: March 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

Host: University of Detroit Mercy

Venue: Cobo Center