The 2017 American Southwest Conference Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament wrapped up at the Brownwood Coliseum Saturday night, as the Comets of UT-Dallas topped Louisiana College 67-60. It was a well-played, hard-fought tournament, and the Howard Payne Lady Jackets showed just how tough the field was when they bowed out to Louisiana College in the opening round despite having won their division.
The tournament went smoothly and successfully, just as a sporting event should. But there is a small army of employees, interns and even volunteers who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure everything came together.
Abram Choate is the sports information director at Howard Payne University. He said hosting the American Southwest Conference tournament was always a distinct possibility for HPU this year because the tournament, which alternates between the East and West division champions, was scheduled for the West this year and HPU was the preseason favorite to win the division.
“That process had started at least a full month ahead of time,” Choate said of the preparations. He said the athletic director Hunter Sims began reaching out to organizations like the Brownwood Area and Early chambers of commerce, the Coliseum and the City of Brownwood to coordinate the event when it became likely that HPU would host.
City of Early tourism coordinator Denise Hudson said the city would have some economic data on the tournament, including hotel occupancy increases, sometime this week. Anecdotally, though, she said area hotels have filled substantially for the event.
Sims said the tournament went very smoothly and that the event received high marks from opposing teams and fans. “We’ve gotten a lot of great compliments,” Sims said. “I think when you plan any event, it’s almost like a wedding. Something’s probably going to go wrong, but it’s probably not as big a deal as you think it is.”
Sims provided the Bulletin with a line-item list the athletics department used to plan for the weekend. Some of its more detailed listings included curtains for the tunnels, ropes for the admissions area, bus parking maps, a down-time music playlist, gift bags, social media graphics and snacks for the hospitality room.
“Luckily we had some time to prepare for it,” Sims said. “Just the littlest things, from food and snacks for the referees, to the workers, to making badges, to tickets, to programs, and just making sure you’re fully staffed with security and all that kind of stuff.”
Choate said one of the biggest challenges of hosting a large tournament is coordinating locker rooms for eight teams, especially on Thursday when all of them played. “When you have four games in one day … you almost don’t have enough locker space. You’ve got to put the pieces in the right place to make sure people are not stepping on each other’s toes going in and out of lockers,” he said.
He said despite the challenges, hosting a conference tournament is a great chance to show off the university and the city. “A lot of people, their only impression of the city of Brownwood, and Howard Payne University, is what they see on this floor and how things are run here.”
Sims said there was really only one thing that could have improved the tournament. “The only thing that would have been better is if [Howard Payne] would have won. I think that’s the only negative. But they still had a wonderful season.”