JACKSONVILLE, Texas — University of Texas-Tyler’s loss has quickly turned out to be what sure is to be a big gain for the City of Jacksonville.
The presidents of the NJCAA Region XIV member institutions voted Wednesday evening to move the Women’s and Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament from UT-Tyler’s Louise Herrington Patriot Center to the Jacksonville ISD Gymnasium, according to a story in the Jacksonville Progress.
JISD Gymnasium previously was known as the R.E. “Bob” and Vivian Smith Arena on what once was Lon Morris College property.
The March 4-7 Region XIV Tournament will follow the same format as last year’s event.
The presidents’ vote to consider a move became necessary after the NCAA named the Patriot Center as one of 16 Division III women’s first-round tournament sites March 6-7. The NCAA chose the Patriot Center after UT-Tyler’s 24-1 American Southwest Conference regular-season women’s championship.
Region XIV presidents considered three options: (1) to start the tournament at UT-Tyler and finish it March 6-7 at Tyler Junior College’s Floyd Wagstaff Gym; (2) to move the entire tournament to TJC; or (3) move it to JISD’s “neutral site,” an arena that has hosted the Region XIV Tournament successfully in its past.
A majority of the 14 presidents voted for the neutral proposal, Jacksonville Progress Sports Editor Jay Neal posted.
Jacksonville College will be the host school, and according to T. Lynn Nabi, the college’s academic dean and athletic director, the response has already been overwhelming, despite the short notice.
“The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce has stepped up and agreed to be the primary sponsor and the City of Jacksonville will also be providing sponsorship,” Nabi said.
Nabi said that he first learned of the scheduling conflict at UT-Tyler nine days ago.
“As soon as I got wind from Dr. Tim Drain (Tyler Junior College Athletic Director) that we would not be able to have the tournament at UT-Tyler, we at Jacksonville College began to make a push to bring the tournament to Jacksonville,” Nabi said. “I was very excited to learn late Wednesday afternoon that nine of the 14 presidents in our region voted to move the tournament to the JISD Gymnasium.”
The Region XIV Tournament last was hosted in the old Lon Morris gymnasium in 2007, when coach Dale Dotson’s Bearcats edged coach Lewis Orr’s Bulldogs in the championship and advanced to the NJCAA Tournament in Hutchinson, Ks. For the most part, league institutions rotated as tournament hosts until the 2008 season when Kilgore hosted at Masters Gymnasium.
Since 2009, the tournament had been played in Tyler — headquartered at UT-Tyler. TJC assumed it one season to relieve the Patriot Center of double-booked events. Last year, ice and snow delayed the start of the tournament by one day and TJC relieved some schedule back-up pressures by hosting some first-round play.