NCAA exec: Atlanta will get ‘every consideration’ for another Final Four

Atlanta lost its turn to host the Final Four when last year’s edition was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Now the city plans to get back in a long line for college basketball’s marquee event.

The men’s Final Four is contractually committed to other cities through 2026, and the NCAA tentatively plans to choose the sites next year for the 2027 through 2031 events.

“We’re certainly going to go after one of those years,” Atlanta Sports Council President Dan Corso said. “Once we get the (bid) documents from the NCAA, we’ll start that process.”

Losing the 2020 event, which was to have been at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, after years of preparation figures to enhance Atlanta’s chances in the next round of bidding.

“Absolutely, Atlanta will be given significant consideration after last year’s disappointment,” NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt told the AJC on the day the selection committee convened in Indianapolis to begin deliberating this season’s tournament bracket. “To be honest with you, I’m actually wearing the 2020 Atlanta Final Four shirt today in honor of Atlanta and the loss that we all suffered by not being there last year.

“So they are still very much in our hearts and minds, even today, and they will be given every consideration for the next Final Four selection process.”

Gavitt said the 2027-31 bid process “potentially” could begin this year, with announcement of the sites expected by October 2022. The bidding could be expanded to include 2032.

“We’ve been so focused on pulling off this year’s tournament that we are going to have to reassess all of this post-pandemic,” Gavitt said. “Normally, it’s a six- to nine-month bid process.”

This season’s Final Four is scheduled to be played in Indianapolis on April 3 (semifinals) and April 5 (championship game). The event is slated for New Orleans in 2022, Houston in 2023, Phoenix in 2024, San Antonio in 2025 and Indianapolis in 2026. All of those years were committed before the cancellation of the 2020 event.

“The bad news is it was canceled. The good news is we’ve got a real good chance to get it back. The bad news is it’ll be (six) to 10 years,” Corso said. “… I think the NCAA really appreciated the way we reacted and how we worked with them to untie things in the days following (cancellation). I think that has put us in a great position.”

The 2020 Final Four was awarded to Atlanta in 2014, another example of how far in advance the event is booked.

Which year(s) Atlanta pursues in the 2027-31 period depends on how availability of hotels and venues lines up with dates. “We’re vetting that out,” Corso said.

Atlanta has hosted the men’s Final Four on four occasions -- 1977 at The Omni and 2002, 2007 and 2013 at the Georgia Dome.

Despite the cancellation of last year’s event and the loss of its anticipated economic impact, Corso pointed to some benefits: 38,600 third-graders across the 20-county metro Atlanta region participated in the NCAA’s “Read to the Final Four” program, 3,200 basketballs and T-shirts that were to have been used for Final Four-related activities were donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta, and 1,500 volunteer kits were given to recreation centers.