Salem ain't so: Men's title game on the move

The Salem Civic Center will host one more national championship celebration at the end of the 2017-18 season before the event moves to Fort Wayne, Indiana for four years.
Photo by Dave Hilbert, 

By Gordon Mann 

After more than two decades, the Division III men's basketball championship will call some place other than the Salem (Va.) Civic Center home, starting in 2019. The NCAA announced the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, in Fort Wayne, Ind., will be the host for NCAA Division III men's basketball national semifinals and national chanpionship games in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

The winning bid was submitted by Fort Wayne's Memorial Coliseum and Manchester University. The Fort Wayne team also submitted bids to host the Division III women's basketball championship weekend, the Division III wrestling regionals and the Division III women's volleyball finals according to a news report by the (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette

"We are excited at the prospect of adding to our championship résumé," Memorial Coliseum General Manager Randy Brown said in a press release at the time of bid submission. "Our objective has been, and will continue to be, to execute the technical aspects of the championship flawlessly, while ensuring that each student-athlete is left with a memorable experience – win or lose."

The Allen County War Memorial Coliseum is the home court for Division I IPFW men's basketball games.
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The Coliseum has two tiers of seating with 13,000 total seats and 5,500 in the lower bowl. It is the current home for the East Coast Hockey League's Fort Wayne Komets, the NBA Developmental League's Fort Wayne Mad Ants and the Division I IPFW Mastodons men's basketball games.

The announcement ends the bidding process that began in early 2016 when the NCAA invited bids from potential hosts for championship events in Divisions I, II and III. Bids were submitted to the NCAA in August 2016 with the initial intention of announcing the winners in December 2016. The process was delayed because of deliberations regarding North Carolina's eligibility to host NCAA championship events following the adoption and eventual repeal of its controversial "bathroom bill."

The individual NCAA Division championship committees reviewed the bids and selected the winners. The Division III men's basketball championship committee is currently chaired by Calvin College head coach Kevin Vande Streek.

“The sports committees had to make some very difficult decisions due to the quality of bids received,” Joni Comstock, NCAA senior vice president of championships, said in a statement distributed via email. “Regarding Division III championships, the Old Dominion Athletic Conference and the City of Salem have certainly set the standard for the experience of everyone involved at NCAA Championships from the student-athletes and coaches to the spectators. In this round of site selections, the committees felt that there were bids from cities with facilities that took the championships to the next level that they just couldn’t overlook.”

While the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) and Salem lost its bid to retain the Division III men's basketball championship, the Salem team won its bid to host the Division III women's bsketball championship. The women's championship weekend will be played at Roanoke College's Cregger Center in 2019 and 2020. Full story

The NCAA announced these championship hosts as part of a larger announcement for Division I, II and III championship sites through the 2021-2022 season. According to the Association's release, there were 613 championship sites announced.

Salem has hosted the national semifinals every year since 1996 and hosted the national championship every year but 2013 when all three Divisions played their national title game in Atlanta. The 2017-18 national semifinals and championship game will be played in the Salem Civic Center before the move takes effect the following season.

“We always tried to treat each championship like it was the first, because for many of these athletes, it truly was their only time on this NCAA stage,” said City of Salem Tourism Director Carey Harveycutter who oversaw each of the 83 NCAA championship events held in Salem from 1993 through 2017. “There may be places with bigger and better facilities, but I guarantee you that no one has better people dedicated to making these championships unforgettable moments for the student-athletes.”

The Salem Civic Center is part of the James E. Taliaferro Sports and Entertainment Complex, along with Salem Stadium which has hosted the NCAA Division III football national championship game every year since 1993. The Stagg Bowl will played one more time in Salem in December 2018 before it moves to Shenandoah, Texas, for two years. The Civic Center, which opened in October 1967, seats around 5,000 for basketball.

The move will likely separate national championship weekend from the Jostens Trophy award ceremony, which has traditionally taken place on Thursday of championship weekend. The Jostens Trophy is administered by the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) and given out by the Salem Rotary Club to one player from Division III men's basketball and one from Division III women's basketball in honor of excellence on the court, in the classroom and in the community.