Detroit Mercy a host institution for NCAA men’s basketball regional

Photo courtesy of Detroit Mercy Athletics

The University of Detroit Mercy and Oakland University will share the court once again, but this time, the Titans and Grizzlies join forces behind the scenes as they are set to co-host the NCAA Men’s March Madness Sweet 16 and Elite 8 playoff rounds at Little Caesars Arena. 

The decision to host such high-caliber events comes after rigorous bidding processes and coordination with the NCAA and local sports commissions. Both Detroit Mercy and Oakland University have a history of hosting NCAA tournaments and other sporting events, attesting to their ability to provide a top-notch experience for teams and fans alike. 

Detroit Mercy has previously hosted March Madness three times: in 2008, 2009, and most recently in 2018, when it hosted the first and second rounds at the then-brand new LCA. As for co-hosting with Oakland University, who is a participating team in the tournament, this was a joint-decision made by the two universities along with the Detroit Sports Commission (DSC) after a similar plan to co-host the first and second round games in 2021 fell just short and was moved to Indianapolis “due to COVID-19 concerns.”   

But what does it mean to be the host? What exactly is Detroit Mercy’s role here? And what does it all entail? To better understand this, the Varsity News spoke to P.J. Gradowski, Assistant Athletic Director, and Mekye Phelps, Senior Assistant Director for Athletic Communications, who both provided an insider perspective and recounted an overview of their experience hosting previous years.

“In general, we [Detroit Mercy], Oakland [University], the [Detroit] Sports Commission, and the LCA obviously just try to make a first-class event,” Gradowski said. “You’ve got to pick out the right hotels, make sure they have the [necessary] number of rooms available, the facilities, meeting rooms, food and all of that stuff for teams.”  

As hosts, attention must be paid down to the detail as you become responsible for staff and players from the moment they touch down in the local airport. Things like travel, team buses and even logistics from the airport to pick up refereeing officials.  Coordination with the arena is also key, as Phelps added that hosts “have to put a person for every single [role]; every single thing we have to be in charge of.” Basic things that, as audiences, people take for granted, need to be meticulously planned and need communication to assure they are lined up. This includes things like making sure the necessary internet is provided, scouting and choosing and assigning volunteers, among others, are all planned ahead of time. 

Outside of the athletics departments, many people from Detroit Mercy will be working these events. Adam Bouton, currently UDM’s Web & Social Media Specialist, who began his professional career in sports journalism, will serve as Media Row Coordinator. David Cassilo, currently an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies and also advisor of the VN, will serve as Head of Quotes. Eden Barash, currently a junior Communication Studies student who also writes for the VN, will serve as a member on the Quotes team. 

“This is a great opportunity for our community to be a part of such an exciting national event,” Cassilo said. “I’m so thrilled that several of our students will be able to have this experience of working the NCAA tournament.” 

So what’s in it for the school? Well, there is a certain honor that comes with hosting such prestigious events that will be streamed to millions of devices around the country. But to add to that, financial gain is a privilege of every hosting school, although the exact figure was not disclosed in the UDM’s case, who will have to split the revenue with its co-host. Detroit Mercy will also have a chance to get some visibility and recognition on a national stage with the inclusion of its logo on the court and generally being part of yet another major NCAA event to add to its prestige and branding.   

The upcoming tournament sounds promising for an exciting and memorable experience for both basketball fans and participants alike. The Midwest regional will begin at Little Caesars Arena with matches ready to be played on Friday, March 29 and Sunday, March 31. Tickets are now live and on-sale starting at $205 on Ticketmaster.