The Southwestern Athletic Conference basketball tournaments will return to Houston in 2017.
But teams will get there a little differently.
First-round games will happen at campus sites, and the semifinals and finals will go on as usual at the Toyota Center, the league announced Thursday.
The new format — which also reduces the tournament field from 10 to eight teams on the men’s and women’s sides — will go into effect next season.
At the conclusion of its spring meetings in Birmingham, Alabama, the SWAC also voted to keep its football championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston for another three years, and the baseball tournament will return to New Orleans for 2017.
“Because we’re a one-bid league, we wanted to give a reward for order of finish in the regular season,” Southern interim athletic director/men’s basketball coach Roman Banks said. “It also gives fans a better opportunity as it relates to going to the conference tournament.
“Our tournament has been almost a week long. This gives fans an opportunity to see another game at home and not have to leave until Friday to make the semifinals. We’ve generally had good crowds on Friday and Saturday, no matter who the teams were.”
The men’s and women’s tournaments have been starting Tuesday and concluding Saturday. The new format will have the top four seeds hosting the next four seeds in reverse order of finish Tuesday, March 7.
The winners will travel to Houston on Wednesday and have a practice day Thursday. The semifinals will be Friday and the finals Saturday, March 11 in the Toyota Center.
Southern won the men’s tournament championship and the attached automatic bid to the NCAA tournament last season, and the Jaguars men and women have played in the championship game each of the last two years.
“History speaks for itself,” Banks said. “Now we have to make sure going forward that we’re still in the mix.”
Banks said having fewer games in Houston will save expenses for SWAC officials, wh have to relocate from the league office in Birmingham for the tournament. Having four on-campus games should also boost attendance in the quarterfinals.
The SWAC concluded an initial three-year arrangement with Houston for the football and basketball events this past school year.
“I think everyone in our league felt that Houston deserved another three years to continue to build these events,” Banks said. “The city has worked hard to make these great events and the individual venues have partnered up with us as sponsors.”
The SWAC baseball tournament will be held at the MLB Urban Youth Academy’s Wesley Barrow Stadium for a fourth consecutive season.
The league’s volleyball tournament, which rotates among campus sites, will be at Jackson State in the fall. It was hosted by Southern the past two seasons.
The SWAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors, athletics directors, senior woman administrators, faculty athletics representatives and coordinator of officials for each of the 18 governed sports took part in the league’s annual spring meetings, which began Tuesday.
Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.