The USA South Conference will begin playing its basketball championships at a neutral site, conference commissioner Rita Wiggs said Thursday.
The conference previously played all games during the tournament at the venue of the higher seed, but will shift to the Cumberland County Civic Center, a 4,500-seat arena in Fayetteville.
“Since we’ve had so much success with the spring sports being at neutral sites, the other coaches and players wanted to go to a neutral site, too,” USA South Commissioner Rita Wiggs said. “We found an arena that was the perfect size. It was a great fit for us.”
The arena, located next to the Crown Coliseum, will house the USA South men’s and women’s tournaments through 2016.
N.C. Wesleyan athletics director and men’s basketball coach John Thompson said that the conference has sought to move to a neutral site for many years.
“We were never able to find the right location for the right dates, and all those variable things never worked out,” Thompson said. “Fayetteville is a great place, and a great location for us to have the tournament.”
Wiggs said the conference likes the idea of making their tournaments events as opposed to just games.
“When you go and play at someone’s campus, it feels like a regular season game,” she said. “We like to have our student-athletes go to a big event where they’re the guests of honor.”
Wiggs also said that the conference plans to involve military families from nearby Fort Bragg in some capacity.
While the games have lost their home-court advantage, Thompson said the move is smart for the USA South.
“We want our student-athletes to be in the best possible atmosphere,” Thompson said. “We hope (the move) bodes well for Wesleyan, but no matter where it is, you still have to win the games.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com