History of fieldhouse enticing, but idea of KU hosting play-in games still ‘far-fetched’

If Saint Joseph’s University athletic director Don DiJulia had his way, the four opening-round games of the expanded 2011 NCAA men’s basketball tournament would not all be played in Dayton, Ohio — site of the play-in game the last several years — but historical buildings like Kansas University’s Allen Fieldhouse and Philadelphia’s Palestra.

The reasoning — as relayed by St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli to ESPN’s Andy Katz — is the games would have more meaning for the players if contested in such venues.

Allen Fieldhouse last played host to NCAA Tournament action in 1979.

“I think it’s far-fetched, but it sounds like a good idea,” said KU senior associate athletic director Larry Keating. “He (St. Joe’s AD) suggested it, but also the Palestra, which is where they play. I think at this point they’ll probably stay in Dayton or another regular site they’ve used (on regular basis in NCAAs).”

Keating admits that in theory, it’d be great to see tourney games back in Allen.

“I am prejudiced, of course, but it’s a great place to play,” Keating said. “One thing about Dayton … Dayton has done a great job putting people in the building when their team is not playing there.”

Would KU be able to sell out Allen for NCAA games with the Jayhawks not involved? The games in ’79 were not close to being sellouts. Of course the tourney has grown big-time since then.

“It’s a good question,” Keating said. “I think there’d be a lot of excitement about it. Years ago they did have tournament games in places like Allen, which hosted it (tournament) regularly. I was at Hofstra in the ’70s. We played Notre Dame in the Palestra, which hosted a lot of first-round games. You also have to remember, back then, Allen at 16,000 seats was one of the larger buildings in the country.”

No doubt players around the country would enjoy playing tourney games in Lawrence.

“Each year when we do scheduling, we get a certain amount of people who call wanting to play in the building, which is great,” Keating said. “It’s great for the building to have that honor, if you want to put it like that.”

A possible snag would be the fact the Jayhawks and NCAA Tournament teams in town would both need to share the fieldhouse court and KU’s practice facility for practice. KU’s women’s team also might need practice time for the postseason.

The NCAA still hasn’t announced the format for the new 68-team field. One possibility is to have four opening-round games — likely in Dayton — matching 16 vs. 17 seeds.

“The decision is not as easy as people think,” Keating said. “There’s almost no way you can play these games Monday. Tuesday is pushing it when the (CBS bracket) announcement is Sunday evening. It was a very quick turnaround for two teams, now eight teams have to turn around. When you realize they (winners) can’t all play on Friday (some certainly will have to play Thursday if the current pod system remains intact) it makes it even tougher especially if the 16-17 winner has to go to Spokane or Sacramento.”