You may remember what happened three years ago when Glens Falls lost the state public high school boys basketball tournament to Binghamton.
Local organizers and basketball people were not happy. State public high school officials were criticized by local fans and the media. It was acrimonious, even bitter.
That was partly because of a circuitous selection process in which Glens Falls lost only after a second round of voting. But also, it was because the public high school tournament is probably the biggest and most important high school sports event in the state. It brought a lot of people to Glens Falls. Local fans watched their hometown teams play for state titles at what was then called the Civic Center.
Glens Falls will have to settle for one state basketball tournament.
Monday’s announcement that the Federation Tournament of Champions will leave Glens Falls didn’t draw the same reaction. As best as I can tell, it got a collective shrug of the shoulders from the general public.
The Federation tournament is a basketball lover’s event. Many future NBA or WNBA players have come through Glens Falls. So have some of the top-ranked teams in the country.
But it stirs little interest among casual fans, and teams from the city rarely bring more than a handful of followers. It’s not the same as a town and its team chasing the Holy Grail of a state public high school crown. Federation attendance pales in to the other tourney.
Local organizers wanted the Federation tournament back. They felt Glens Falls was worthy of hosting both state events. But I think most of us can see that the public high school boys basketball tournament is the big prize. That’s the tournament that brings in fans — and business revenue — in a way that the Federation never has.
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Many of you won’t miss the Fed tourney after it leaves. I will. There was lots of history involved with that tournament. Also, from a writer’s standpoint, lots of great stories and interesting people, especially with smaller schools that come up from the city.
(Lest anyone think I was pushing for the Federation tournament’s return, I will point out that covering state tournaments on back-to-back weekends is detrimental to the health of any sports editor. I will get by just fine with one tournament.)
Federation officials hope the move to Fordham University in 2020 will mean bigger crowds. The followers of most of the participating teams can reach it via Metro-North or the subway. Whether that will translate into better attendance, however, remains to be seen.
There are lots of big things going on in New York City that push high school sports way down the to-do list. It’s tough to get the media’s attention. And you’ve still got the problem of the Federation tournament being anticlimactic after the city playoffs.
Still, it’s hard to argue with the move. Glens Falls tournament chair Chip Corlew said as much on Monday. He wished them well. He was thankful that Fed tourney organizers brought the tournament back here for three years.
If you’re hoping to see the public high school tournament return to Glens Falls — the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s executive committee votes on the matter on Feb. 1 — then you, too, should be thankful that the Federation event came back here in 2017.
While the public high school boys basketball tournament was playing in Binghamton, it kept state basketball alive in Glens Falls. As Corlew points out, it helped local organizers stay “sharp.” Volunteers stayed connected. There will be no need to rebuild an organization to host the public high school tournament, should it come here.
It’s part of the legacy the Federation tournament will leave behind when the last games are played in Glens Falls this coming March.