MAAC basketball tournament’s future in Atlantic City remains uncertain

By Dylan Manfre

Rich Ensor’s language surrounding the future of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) men’s and women’s basketball tournament has drastically changed since October 2021 when he spoke in a media call with reporters on Jan. 18. 

The longtime MAAC commissioner was hopeful to present a possible three-year extension to the Council of Presidents at their December meeting that would keep the tournament at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“All signs are positive,” Ensor told reporters in October of 2021. 

That is officially up in the air. Ensor told The Times Union Newspaper on Jan. 8 the chances of the tournament staying at Boardwalk Hall were “50-50.” 

Ensor had no update from that stance when asked by The Rider News on a call with reporters on Jan. 18. 

“I think it’s 50-50 still … But I don’t have anything in way of an update,” Ensor said.

The original three-year contract ends after the tournament from Mar. 8 to Mar. 13, 2022. In the event a new deal cannot be struck, Ensor did provide possible alternatives to playing at Boardwalk Hall.

“I anticipate that we’ll have bidders for it,” Ensor said. “There’s some new players in the region, so we’ll have to see. We’re starting to work on a potential [request for proposal] if we go out to bid.”

Ensor said he visited the newly constructed USB Arena on Long Island, New York, which is home to the NHL’s New York Islanders.

Multiple women’s basketball head coaches expressed their desire to keep the tournament in Atlantic City citing reasons ranging from personal, to professional.. Many coaches had family in the area or within an hour of the arena.

Fairfield Head Coach Joe Frager said he will “probably just be there in the stands eating some popcorn,” since he is retiring at the season’s conclusion. 

A common theme from the women’s basketball coaches was how they do not feel they got the full experience of the MAAC tournament in Atlantic City. The 2020 tournament was canceled due to COVID-19 and the 2021 tournament was riddled with COVID-19 regulations and did not even feature all 11 teams since Canisius backed out of the season.

Saint Peter’s Head Coach March Mitchell questioned the logic of it being played elsewhere.

“Why would you take it anywhere else?” Mitchell said confidently. “AC is a great place for all of us. I think it’s a great place, a destination place that people can come to and enjoy the city as well. I don’t see the benefits of taking it out of Atlantic City. I think leaving it in Atlantic City would be great for all the programs, for all the players and their families.”

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