BALTIMORE (AP) — In searching for a home for the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, Commissioner Tom Yeager had one overriding priority: location.
The league committed to Baltimore for three years, and Yeager expressed no regret after the CAA wrapped up its first tournament in Charm City on Monday night.
“The building’s been fabulous for us, the city’s been terrific. The fans that have been here loved it,” Yeager said before Delaware beat William & Mary 75-74 in the championship game.
The crowds at the 52-year-old Baltimore Arena were enthusiastic — but small. Only a handful of fans each session sat in the upper deck of the 11,000-seat building.
CAA officials said attendance over the weekend was just over 19,000, and an announced crowd of 5,414 came Monday.
Those numbers pale compared to the 47,833 in Richmond, Va. in 2012. In should be noted, however, that this tournament had three fewer teams after four schools changed conferences and the College of Charleston was added.
Yeager remains optimistic.
“We thought all along the first year was going to be kind of an education for our fans getting used to coming here,” he said. “Obviously we’d love to have big crowds. It’s going to take some time to build it, but there isn’t any criticism that we have about anything.”
Baltimore was chosen because it’s a central location for a conference that once was heavy on teams from the south.
“We go from Boston to Charleston, S.C.,” Yeager said. “It’s easier to get to Baltimore than it was for Richmond, even for the guys in the South.”
Delaware certainly found Baltimore to its liking, and not just because it’s so much closer than Richmond or because the Blue Hens became the first CAA school south of Virginia to win the title.
“I thought the atmosphere was tremendous,” coach Monte Ross said. “The venue itself was terrific. I think Baltimore itself is destination where people come, where families have the opportunity to do a lot of things.”
The crowd at the final probably would have been larger if local-favorite and second-seed Towson wasn’t ousted in the semifinal round. William & Mary had a strong contingent of followers, but Towson’s campus is only 20 minutes away from downtown Baltimore.
“It’s not an invitational,” Yeager said. “You have to play.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)