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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, March 12, 2019 1:00 am

Host college playing role, too

Exposure crucial for Manchester

ELIZABETH WYMAN | The Journal Gazette

Manchester knows a little something about basketball. Former coach and 1983 Indiana Mr. Basketball Steve Alford coached the Spartans to three consecutive conference titles (1993 to '95).

Now the Spartans find themselves at the center of the Division III college basketball world, preparing to host the men's championship this weekend in conjunction with Visit Fort Wayne and Memorial Coliseum.

“Exposure is the No. 1 goal and a connection with our two campuses with one being North Manchester and one being in Fort Wayne,” said Ryan Hedstrom, associate professor of sports management at Manchester. “And our history with college basketball being in Indiana and the whole Hoosiers thing.”

Manchester has never hosted a national event to this extent before. However, a successful hosting of a Division III Midwest wrestling regional in 2017 jump-started the idea that the university could handle the magnitude of a Final Four, thus starting the bidding process.

“One of the biggest benefits to Manchester partnering with the Coliseum and Visit Fort Wayne in hosting this event will be Manchester University will now be known more nationwide and that every time the tournament is referenced our name is on that advertisement since we are the institutional host,” said Tami Hoagland, part of the organizing committee.

Exposure is the name of the game, and the Spartans are certainly getting that despite the hosting site being off campus.

“With Division III being the largest Division of the three and over 400 teams vying for one of 64 spots to make it to Fort Wayne, that's a lot of PR,” Hoagland said.

While Visit Fort Wayne and the Coliseum were the primary components in the bidding process, Hoagland and the university are tasked with organizing a successful and smooth event.

“All of those minor details that hopefully no one will notice have been done, but they just expect them are what we've been working on,” she said. “It's all been an all-out effort to make this event the best that we can for the student-athletes who've worked so hard all season to advance to this part of the tournament.”

Manchester sports management students have played and will play a vital role in the operation of the event.

Hedstrom has the perfect opportunity of getting his students out of the classroom and being able to experience firsthand what it takes to run such an event.

“We've been talking with them about the planning of the event and everything that goes into putting on an event like this,” Hedstrom said. “Oftentimes with students they think these things just happen, so being able to see the immense amount of work it takes to put on essentially 48 hours of a basketball tournament.”

Ultimately, the championship, like most events at the Coliseum, is used as a way to pull people in and create exposure for the city and hosts. 

“It not only brings in money and exposure but really when it comes to hosting an event like this there's a pride and a sense of being able to show future governing bodies what we can do and that we can host events like this,” Hedstrom said. “It perpetuates on itself in them bidding on events in the future and showing off Fort Wayne as a sports city.”