That’s how long Purdue AD Mike Bobinski stayed in the Indianapolis JW Marriott during 2021 March Madness as a member of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee.
“It moved really quickly,” Bobinski told GoldandBlack.com. “But it was confining. We were allowed on two floors of the JW Marriott. The meeting space was on the third floor. Our sleeping rooms were on the fourth floor. We couldn’t use the elevator. They were locked down, so you had to use the fire stairs all the time. So, it was confining, no question about that. Couldn’t go down to the lobby, restaurants weren’t opening up. Couldn’t do anything.”
It was all basketball, all the time.
With the pandemic still gripping the nation, the entire NCAA tourney took place in the state of Indiana across multiple venues,–including Purdue’s Mackey Arena–with Indianapolis serving as the epicenter. It was the most unique NCAA tourney in history.
“I thought it felt really good, and executed really well even with all the restrictions and all the things you couldn’t do this year, keeping teams apart from each other and keeping everybody apart from each other,” said Bobinski. “I think we all thought, ‘Hey, imagine if we didn’t have these restrictions and had all these teams together. What an unbelievable sort of festival experience it would be for these teams.’
While the set-up and execution went well, Bobinski doesn’t think the 2021 NCAA tournament format will be repeated.
“It’s a national tournament, and having it housed in 13 different sites to start out and all that, there’s lots of value in that, too,” said Bobinski. “So, I don’t know if it’ll ever happen again.”
While having a single host state/city likely won’t happen again, Bobinski said some elements born of that necessity in 2021 because of the pandemic could be incorporated into future NCAA tournaments.
“It had a very unique feel, and a city like Indianapolis is one of a handful of cities in the country that can pull it off, did an unbelievable job of really rising to the occasion in every way under an incredibly tight time frame,” said Bobinski. “The volunteers that showed out and put themselves in the bubble for the whole month. I mean, it was amazing that people were willing to do that just to help this thing come off. I was really impressed by it.”
One change from 2021 that Bobinski liked.
“We had a different officiating circumstance this year where you had less officials because you kept him in a controlled environment and they were there, lots of them stayed the whole time,” he said. “I don’t know if you can ever do that again, but sort of having the best of the best is not a bad thing, either. So, there were a couple things that I think will be interesting to think about as we move into the sort of recap of the tournament at our next meeting.”
What about the notion of maintaining the traditional model of having first- and second-round games played at eight different site? Then, having the Sweet 16 and Final Four in one city?
“Yeah, I think all of it is worth thinking about and I think even some of the shift in days, when we went has the Sweet 16, Elite Eight on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, as opposed to Thursday Friday Saturday, Sunday.
“That will be something that we’ll look at and talk about with all the television partners, CBS and Turner, to see how it felt to them executed from a viewership perspective and time slot perspective. I think there’s some of those things that will definitely get a hard look and we’ll evaluate to see if it makes sense to continue going forward.”
Bobinski was impressed.
“It was as good as it could be, is what I would say,” said Bobinski. “I think we were all ready to get out and be done when we were done. But it went amazingly quickly in 29 days. There was never a time when you were just sitting around sort of looking in the mirror saying, ‘OK, now what do I do?’ Because all of us have other jobs.”
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