When the Carleton Ravens and ScotiaBank Place were awarded the 2008-2010 CIS/U Sports men’s basketball championships, many applauded. Finally, the CIS Men’s Final 8 managed to change venues after 25 straight years in Halifax.
For Carleton University and ScotiaBank Place the opportunity to host the Final 8 event was seen as a once in a lifetime chance. The Ravens and their heralded coach Dave Smart continuously found success in their annual trips to the Metro Centre in Halifax, winning five straight (2003-2007) closely contested CIS Final 8 championships.
At stake was the glorious and rare opportunity to tie or break one of the longest standing CIS records of all-time, the University of Victoria Vikes seven consecutive CIS men’s basketball championships from 1979-1986. More importantly, a declaration as one of the greatest dynasties in Canadian sports history.
Those plans quickly came to an end in 2008 when the favourite hometown Ravens were knocked off in the second national semi-final by the Acadia Axemen. An 82-80 double-overtime thriller broke the hearts of many Carleton Ravens fans and ScotiaBank executives alike who had grown accustomed to and expected nothing but championship glory and champagne on home soil.
After three years of poor attendance, inflated ticket sales and only one championship banner for the Ravens the Final 8 tournament was moved back to Halifax were it will spend the next two years in the hands of Phil Currie and the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) crew.
Winning championships aside, many mistakes were made in Ottawa, the organizing committee failed to market the Final 8 event properly. They struggled to put together unique marketing concepts which failed to attract and generate buzz around Ottawa and surrounding cities.
Hosting the Final 8 event at the ScotiaBank Place itself was a fatal blow given how much was on the line if Carleton failed to reach the Finals. An outcome which came to reality and significantly impacted championship game tickets sales, causing a myriad of misleading press releases.
Another air ball was shot when the organizing committee failed to take advantage of new media opportunities available at their fingertips; instead, they went with traditional marketing tactics that stopped short of reaching a younger and affluent crowd, a category that has seen tremendous growth and interest for university and college basketball in Canada.
Atlantic University Sport (AUS) executives are using social media and alternatives mediums to help raise awareness of the upcoming 2011 CIS Men’s Final 8. Additionally, they selected several athletes, Phillip Nkrumah (Cape Breton), Christian Upshaw (St. FX) and included them in their media campaigns as a way to reach out and attract interest from players to casual fans alike.
Extra goodies from the AUS include the announcement of major award winners during half-time. This is a good way to involve the paying customer and give them a reason for coming out and being entertained.
The 2008-2010 CIS Basketball Final 8 in Ottawa wasn’t a complete failure, in fact, there were plenty of positives to take away from the three years away from Halifax.
Moving away from the Metro Centre itself was necessary for the growth of the game and should be encouraged. There were improvements each year in the area of broadcasting, coverage, internet buzz and overall reach, but more importantly different teams hoisted national banners, Brock Badgers (2008), Carleton Ravens (2009) and 2010 defending champions Saskatchewan Huskies.
The Canadian University Sport (CIS) organization and its conferences have done a decent job improving the collegiate experience across the board. It’s worth noting that more high calibre high school players are deciding to stay home and explore the options offered here. Interestingly enough, we’re also seeing more Americans finding a home and success at the CIS level, this bonds well for the future of game.
For the Carleton Ravens and ScotiaBank Place they will once again get the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and successes as they will showcase the 2013-2014 CIS men’s basketball Final 8 event.
The reason why many associate the CIS Men’s Final 8 with Halifax and the Metro Centre is because they had time to adjust based on their findings and experience.
Let’s hope that the time away from the Metro Centre in Halifax brings the start of a new championship streak, we could be looking at four in a row by the time the Ravens organizing committee gets their fourth and fifth attempts in 2013-2014.