Detroit's best shot was rejected.
After Detroit Sports Commission officials and city leaders spent more than a year attempting to woo another Final Four to town, the NCAA decided against awarding Detroit the men's basketball showcase.
The announcement came Monday afternoon, as the NCAA revealed sites for 2023-26.
Detroit was among seven finalists for the four bids, along with Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Indianapolis. Houston got 2023, Phoenix 2024, San Antonio 2025 and Indianapolis 2026.
"Oh, the initial reaction was disappointment. Great disappointment," said Kris Smith, director of the Detroit Sports Commission. "We were definitely looking for a positive response to our bid. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
"I was surprised. You know, this community did a great job of putting its best foot forward, and our best foot forward is mighty in a lot of ways. So, absolutely, there was some surprise."
The Detroit Sports Commission headlined the bidding process, and last month it hosted a contingent of NCAA officials for a tour of recently renovated Ford Field, as well as a swanky reception on the rooftop of the Madison Building. Among those in attendance: Interim Michigan State president John Engler, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo and Mark Hollis, the former Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, who is working as a consultant for Dan Gilbert. Gilbert was expected to be involved in planning and marketing for Detroit's second Final Four.
Last week in Boston, the NCAA hosted in-person presentations from the finalist cities.
“This extremely competitive process mirrored the championship’s selections meeting, with the committee having lengthy conversations about the pros and cons of seven attractive and qualified locations,” Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball, said in a statement. “We are thrilled for the cities of Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio and Indianapolis. All those cities have hosted the event with overwhelming success in recent years, and yet all of them approached the bid process with an unassuming energy.
"We look forward to bringing the NCAA’s marquee championship back to those locations.”
For Indianapolis, it will be its ninth Final Four; only Kansas City (10) has hosted more. San Antonio gets its fifth, Houston its fourth and Phoenix its second.
Michigan State was to be the host school if Detroit landed the bid, with the Big Ten serving as a co-host. Detroit Mercy was the host school in 2009, when North Carolina beat Michigan State in the final.
This past March, Little Caesars Arena hosted first- and second-round games of the NCAA Tournament, and will again in 2021.
The Detroit Sports Commission continues to assess other opportunities to bring marquee events to the city, Smith said, though he wouldn't go into specifics.
"But rest assured, we do have a number of things in the hopper," he said. "Big picture, we will continue to sit back and look at (events) that make sense for our region.
"I think what also needs to be mentioned, the NCAA already awarded us seven other championships, so they do have faith in our community.
"So, while some people look at this as a loss, we look at it as a continuation of a relationship."
Those events include the 2020 men's and women's fencing championships at Cobo Center, the 2020 women's bowling championship at Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park, the 2020 Frozen Four at Little Caesars Arena, the 2021 men's basketball NCAA Tournament first and second rounds at LCA, the 2021 Division II women's golf championships at TPC Michigan in Dearborn, the 2022 Division I wrestling championships at LCA, and the 2022 Division II men's golf championships at TPC Michigan.
So, while there's some significant sting in missing out on the Final Four — the sites for 2019-22 had been previously announced, set for Minneapolis, Atlanta, Indianapolis and New Orleans, respectively — Smith said the commission still is "holding our heads pretty high."
"But we still have some work to do," he said.
Smith said the Detroit Sports Commission has solicited feedback from the NCAA, "to learn and get better," and is awaiting a response.
Final Fours awarded by the NCAA on Monday:
■ 2023: Houston (NRG Stadium)
■ 2024: Phoenix (University of Phoenix Stadium)
■ 2025: San Antonio (Alamodome)
■ 2026: Indianapolis (Lucas Oil Stadium)