The Big 12 Conference isn’t calling this a test run for when it hosts the men’s NCAA Final Four next year in the same location – at Cowboys Stadium – but that’s what this weekend’s South Regional amounts to.
And what a grand experiment it is.
When Kansas and Michigan tip off at 6:37 p.m. Friday, it’ll be in a stadium that has held the most people to ever attend a basketball game – 108,713 at the 2010 NBA All-Star game – and puts fans at dizzying heights in order to be able to support their teams.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t still see the game.
“The one advantage we have over any building in the world is, even in the higher-level seating, you’ve got one of the greatest video screens on the planet,” said Rob Carolla, the Big 12 director of communications. “So we don’t view any seats as a bad seat.”
Cowboys Stadium has a center-hung video board that weighs 1.2 million pounds and is the second-largest in the world – high-definition, live shots of the game on screens 72 feet wide by 160 feet high.
Carolla, to his credit, didn’t want to call the games on Friday and Sunday a test run – Florida plays Florida Gulf Coast after the Kansas-Michigan game – but was clear about using this as an opportunity to make sure everything works right for next year.
Friday’s and Sunday’s setup by the Big 12 has a capacity of 42,614 fans. A different configuration will allow more than 80,000 for the 2014 Final Four.
On Thursday, all four teams held public workouts on the court, which sits in the middle of the football field on risers that extend over stationary field seats that can hold 16,000. Kansas practiced third behind Michigan and Florida Gulf Coast and, as usual, had a large following on hand – most reacting with wonderment at seeing a basketball court set up in one of the world’s most famous football stadiums.
Lee’s Summit, Mo., native and Dallas resident Tim Connors, who has Kansas season tickets, was one of the many who came to watch the Jayhawks.
“It’s really incredible to get in here and see how they have arranged everything,” Connors said. “And, yeah, if you don’t think your seats are great, it’s still amazing, because you have one of the largest flat screens in the world to watch the game on.”