The countdown has officially begun. The NCAA men’s basketball champion will be crowned in just 75 short days.
To mark the beginning of what is set up to be an eventful week surrounding the 76th Final Four, the most exciting tournament in sports, NCAA officials and members of the North Texas Local Organizing Committee gathered at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium, the site of this year’s tournament finale, to announce some of the many opportunities basketball fans and volunteers will have to engage in this year’s Final Four festivities.
“The mission of the NCAA and all its member institutions is education, service, and reaching the youth in our country,” Dan Gavitt, the NCAA Vice President of Men’s Basketball Championships, said. “This is a great event to be able to do that on a local level. Being involved with the community, inspiring the young people to pursue their education and to have the kind of success that leads to Final Four participation is a real vital part of what we do.”
While the on-court action will all happen on April 5 and 7, fans will have a menu of events to choose from to celebrate North Texas’ first Final Four since 1986. Beginning April 4, the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Downtown Dallas will be transformed into Bracket Town, a 350,000-sq. ft. basketball heaven that will play host to, among many things, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament open to anyone age nine or older. Tickets to Bracket Town go on sale today, and can be found at NCAA.com/finalfour, along with information about the rest of the action-packed week, including the March Madness Music Festival at the site of the old Reunion Arena.
“The greatest thing about the NCAA is that they know that, despite the size of this building, everybody can’t come in here,” said Charlotte Jones Anderson, Chair of the North Texas Local Organizing Committee. “They want to make sure that there are many opportunities for the community to be involved and engaged through a series of events.”
One of the Local Organizing Committee’s duties is to manage the 2,000-plus volunteers who give their time and energy throughout the week of the Final Four to run a variety of events – from performing tasks as small as welcoming people at the airport to helping facilitate the Final Four Dribble. Anderson said local volunteers and corporate sponsors alike have already provided enough support to make North Texas’ Final Four one to remember.
“They’re a great group of people who have really lent their wisdom to make this the best Final Four ever -- we believe, and hopefully very unique -- and give them the opportunity like no other, and hopefully lots of reasons to come back and celebrate future Final Fours here,” she said.
As for the on-floor action, today’s host and longtime NCAA tournament voice Brad Sham said AT&T Stadium is more than prepared to welcome in the sport’s greatest teams and their loyal fans.
“I’ve done a lot of these events in a lot of football stadiums,” he said, “and there’s never been one that was put together, and run, and looked, and felt like what AT&T Stadium looked like last year.”
“It’s gonna be unbelievable,” Sham added, “and this is just a great venue for it.”
The four competing teams will all hold one-hour practice sessions open to the public on Reese’s Final Four on Friday, April 4. Fans can come out and see the teams up-close and personal for free.
“That is a great time for people, whether you have tickets or not, just to come out and watch those teams practice,” Ron Wellman, NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee Chair, said. “The coaches speak to the crowd, there will be prizes given – you can actually win Final Four tickets at that event. It’s just a wonderful time for people to get an up-close view of what the teams do at practice. We’ve had great turnouts in the past for that event, and we anticipate the same this year.”
Following the practices, college basketball’s brightest senior stars will play in the Reese’s College All-Star Game, also free to the public. Fans will have the opportunity to join in on the Tip-Off Tailgate presented by Infiniti before the practices and All-Star Game.
All of the events, of course, lead up to the sold-out championship game, where somewhere north of 80,000 fans will see the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion crowned, which will break the NCAA tournament single-game attendance record. Tickets for all three games during Final Four week are sold out, but fans can participate in the NCAA Ticket Exchange to buy or sell tickets by going to NCAA.com/mbbtickets. It’s a week college basketball fans will surely not want to miss, and North Texas is more than ready to entertain its guests.