Sports Watch

Bill Kwon

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, March 11, 1999

WAC tourney won’t
be the same anymore

LEAVING Las Vegas.

Somehow, it's not going to be the same for Rainbow fans interested in going to the WAC basketball tournament now that it won't be held in Las Vegas because of the breakup of the 16-team Western Athletic Conference.

With Nevada-Las Vegas joining the seven other defectors, the remaining eight WAC teams, including the University of Hawaii, now have to look for a different site to stage its postseason tournament next season.

Honolulu, Dallas, El Paso and Tulsa have been mentioned as possible host sites.

You won't see many fans from here eager to go to those mainland cities as they would Las Vegas. Neither the fans of the four other remaining WAC teams -- Texas Christian, Southern Methodist, San Jose State and Fresno State.

Dallas? Well, maybe. That site would cut travel costs for the Texas schools and Tulsa. And the "Big D" has a big-city image the new WAC sorely needs.

El Paso and Tulsa are good cities to be from, not go to.

Honolulu is a nice place to live, even though it now wants to charge for garbage pickup, but I wouldn't want to play here. It just doesn't feel like postseason, if you're playing at home.

Besides, the league might find the idea of bringing 14 teams -- don't forget the women -- to this geographic outpost financially too prohibitive, especially without a TV package in hand.

THE real bottom line, though, is that none of the above suggested sites comes close to being an ideal site as Las Vegas in terms of drawing power for a basketball tournament. Besides T&A, Vegas has T&M -- Thomas & Mack Center, which seats 18,500.

Even Utah coach Rick Majerus, whose Utes won the last WAC Tournament as we know it, begrudgingly admits as much, though he dislikes Las Vegas and the whole concept of a postseason tournament.

"I've come to find out there are a lot more friends who come to see you play in Vegas than they do when you play in Gary, Ind.," said the rotund one.

You can add El Paso and Tulsa to that list while you're at it, Rick baby.

Besides, how can you not like a city where they put up a statue of Lenin instead of tearing it down? Wow. A statue of Lenin and the Statue of Liberty in the same city. What a country!

The statuesque Lenin guards the entrance to the Red Square nightclub at the Mandalay Bay, which opened when I was there. Not wanting to fight the 40,000 who attended opening night, I'll wait until my next trip to drop a few rubles at a great vodka bar I heard they have there.

But I digress.

WAC commissioner Karl Benson said that he's accepting bids for the 2000 site. The deadline is March 31 and a decision will probably be made in early May.

So, I'll be grieving that the Rainbows will be leaving Las Vegas.

Where else can I have so much fun losing money?

Where else can I find a home away from home like the California Hotel?

Where else can I run into my two all-time favorite Rainbow pitchers -- Derek Tatsuno and Mel Hirano -- in one place?

Or sit down with two Rainbow basketball coaches past and present -- Larry Little and Riley Wallace -- watching Brigham Young play. Unfortunately, the Cougars won the game, surprising TCU.

But I must confess, before Riley blabs it to anyone. I shook the extended hand of Cosmo, the BYU mascot, during the game. I don't know what possessed this BYU hater in doing that.

It might have been a lack of sleep, playing black jack or craps into the wee hours of the morning.

Anyway, it wasn't a hand, it was a paw. Besides, my mother told me to be kind to animals.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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