Take a look at the picture above (click on it to make it bigger). It's a shot of about 3,000 folks packed into the Union County Holiday tournament for a girls game at Wingate last week. The tournament is actually a de facto county championship and something I think should happen in Mecklenburg County, too.
An assistant basketball coach in Union County recently sent me an email saying he thought my ideas for a city championship here over Christmas was good. I heard from about 125 folks via email or text and response was about 98 percent in favor. I'll add the link to that story below.
Long story short, Union County has put on this tournament for nearly 30 years according to the coach. The picture above is from an early round game he took between Porter Ridge and Marvin Ridge. It speaks to the power of local competition. And the coach said by the time the boys hit the floor, it was standing room only and the noise was deafening.
Here is how they do it over there, according to the coach: Organizers divide Anson Senior and 11 Union County teams by record and strength of schedule. Teams go into the eight team championship tourney and a four team mini tournament.
Of course, teams often have to face conference rivals. That happens, but in the context of the city championship (or county as some would rather have me call it), I think the conference affiliations go out the window.
In Charlotte-Meck, you could have a 32-team tournament including nearly all public and private teams; or you could just play with privates that play by the same rules as publics, giving us 24 teams -- and a 16-team city/county championship field and an 8-team "invitational" field. Think of it as the NCAA Tournament and the NIT.
This could be a huge hit here and I think it would be, with crowds just like those you see above. Finishing at UNC Charlotte or Bojangles' Coliseum might open up possibilities for even bigger crowds -- and memories for the players that would last a lifetime. Middle school students would grow up wanting to play. Feed your audience. And to do this, I would give out a limited number of free tickets at all local middle schools.
Of course, there's still room for the current Bojangles' event. Just move to before Christmas, where many holiday tournaments are already on the calendar, but the city/county championship would have a much bigger impact and could provide CMS with a needed financial boost.