City of Pittsburgh, Pitt host NCAA with hopes of hosting women’s Final Four


By Jasper Wilson / Sports Editor

The Pitt women’s basketball team might not make the Final Four next March, but by November, the University and the city of Pittsburgh may have secured a role hosting the prestigious sporting event in the near future.

At the David Lawrence Convention Center Wednesday, people from various sectors of city life gathered on the building’s second floor to welcome the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship staff and other NCAA officials to the city for its two-day visit and evaluation of Pittsburgh as a potential host site for the event any year between 2017 and 2020.

Pittsburgh is one of seven cities along with Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Houston, Nashville, Tenn., New Orleans, and Tampa Bay, Fla., that are up for selection to host the final weekend of the annual tournament. One city will be selected for each of the four years. The selection committee takes into account the city’s venue, transportation and lodging and its overall commitment to the event. 

New Orleans has hosted the event three times. Tampa Bay hosted in 2008 and will host next year, while Nashville was the location for this year’s edition.

Should Pittsburgh be selected, Pitt would serve as the host institution — an administrative and logistical role — with the games taking place at the Consol Energy Center.  While the women’s tournament often uses campus sites for earlier rounds, neutral sites are typical for this advanced stage since there is a requirement that the prospective cities must offer a venue that seats at least 18,000 spectators — well above the capacity of the Petersen Events Center.

“Our job would be to run the basketball portion of this and the tournament portion,” Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said. “It’d be exciting for the city, exciting for our campus and pretty high profile for us all the way around. People get to see Pittsburgh on TV. It’s going to be very high profile for our women’s basketball program because that just elevates the discussion and attention paid to women’s basketball.”

The event could also bring even more positive publicity to Pitt’s women’s team, which has begun to improve under second-year women’s basketball coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, who Pederson called “the best coach in the country,” as she attempts to rebuild the program.

“I think it’d be a huge impact,” he said. “Giving her additional resources, additional discussion points is all great stuff.” 

McConnell-Serio has no doubts about the level of her institution’s investment in putting on something of such great importance as an NCAA championship.

“The one thing when you look at hosting an event like this — it’s commitment. Pitt is committed to trying to bring the Final Four here and putting the resources into it,” McConnell-Serio said. 

McConnell-Serio said Pittsburgh is an ideal candidate because of its accessibility and proximity between all aspects of the event, whether it be Consol, the convention center or hotels.

“We’ve been to so many Final Fours where the host hotel is for the coaches right next to the convention center, which we have [in Pittsburgh],” she said. “We’ve been at places where you’ve had to take shuttles to and from. So you look at the convenience and making it an enjoyable experience for the coaches, the fans the teams that are in the Final Four. You look at what Pittsburgh has to offer I just think it’s a great situation, and it could be a successful event.”

According to Anucha Browne Sanders, vice president of women’s basketball championships for the NCAA, after completing their tours, the cities will get another chance to present to the committee in early November at meetings in Indianapolis before the decision is made later that month.

The committee has already gone to Tampa Bay and New Orleans and will visit Columbus later this week.

But for McConnell-Serio, a western Pennsylvania native, securing the event for her home region would have special meaning.

“It would be amazing to host an event like the women’s Final Four,” McConnell-Serio said. “For us to showcase our city and be able to host it, I think it would be something special.”