Used to be, Texas A&M’s Gary Blair was the only women’s basketball coach who trumpeted the Big 12 staging its men’s and women’s tournaments in separate cities.
When the Big 12 women’s coaches convened last week in Dallas, others joined the chorus and the thought of breaking away from the men’s tournament was discussed more than ever before. Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale noted the Big 12 has led the nation in women’s attendance for 11 straight seasons. "We owe it to ourselves to at least explore any options we might have,” Coale said. "We’ve proven we can draw the crowds.” The women aren’t drawing fans because of the men. Big 12 officials estimate there are only 1,000 crossover fans during the men’s and the women’s tournaments for all schools combined. The men’s and women’s tournaments have been held simultaneously in the same city since the inception of Big 12 basketball in 1996-97. Nine tournaments have been held in Kansas City, three in Dallas and two in Oklahoma City. Two of the three largest attendance totals for the women’s tournament occurred when the event was held at the Cox Convention Center (2007 and 2009). If the women’s tournament were to break away from the men, it would offer the Big 12 a scenario of three anchor positions for championship games in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball. The football game would be staged every year at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas; the men’s basketball tournament would be held in Kansas City; and the women’s basketball tournament in Oklahoma City. The women’s tournament wants to be the center of attention and doesn’t want to get lost in a pro town, which eliminates large metropolitan areas such as Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Denver as potential sites. On-campus facilities also are not an option. Oklahoma City fits the desired description, as do Tulsa and Wichita, Kan. The Big Eight women’s basketball tournament was a hit when held in Salina, Kan., at the Bicentennial Center, which seats 7,583. Depending how well the WNBA Shock is received in Tulsa, staging the Big 12 women’s tournament at the BOK Center could become an option, although the town’s two major colleges are from Conference USA and the Summit League.