Manchester Magazine Fall 2017 - Page 42

MU| S p o r t s Spartan Beat MU to host DIII Final Four at Coliseum For as big a deal as it is, Manchester University Athletic Director Rick Espeset (pictured at right) doesn’t inject a lot of drama into its genesis. Visit Fort Wayne and the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum called. They asked. Espeset answered. “We said, ‘Absolutely,’” he recalls. Which is how the process got set in motion that ended with Manchester being selected as a host for the NCAA Division III Final Four in men’s basketball in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022. The games will be played in the Coliseum, and it will mark the end of a 23-year stay in Salem, Va., for the DIII Final Four. Dates are March 15-16 (2019); March 18-19 (2020); March 19-20 (2021); and March 20-21 (2022). “So I think I know what the event should look like and I know what the expectations of the student-athletes are like,” he says. Manchester, and the Coliseum, played host to a Division III wrestling regional in 2017. But this will be wholly different, and Espeset recognized as much when Visit Fort Wayne and the Coliseum made their offer. He also knows he couldn’t have better partners than Visit Fort Wayne and the Coliseum, which has its own experience with NCAA regional and championship events, and which partnered with Manchester and Indiana University- Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) to put in bids for 25 NCAA events. “I’ve been an athletic director here nine years and we haven’t hosted anything (like this), and it just seemed like maybe a neat opportunity,” he says. It’s also an opportunity to which Espeset brings a certain level of expertise. As Manchester’s baseball coach for 21 years, he served on the Division III baseball championship committee for four years and chaired it one year. And he’s taken the Spartans to the DIII nationals twice. 42 | “They really did the work,” Espeset says. “We found out, working with Visit Fort Wayne and the Coliseum, that their customer service is like Disney World. There’s never a ‘no.’ They know how to do events, they want to do it first class, and yeah, they’re just really good to work with.” Coliseum general manager Randy Brown reciprocates. “We couldn’t have a more professional group of people to work with,” he says. “Just top to bottom, the quality of the Manchester people is unmatched. They make our job easy. “It’s a perfect marriage here.” Manchester’s part in it, Epseset says, will be to make sure the games, and the logistics surrounding them, come off smoothly. “All the stuff kind of leading up to the game day is the Memorial Coliseum and Visit Fort Wayne,” he says “Now the game happens, and then it’s kind of one of the areas we’ll probably take the lead on a little bit. Mark Adkins (MU sports information director) will run the media room and handle all the press. We’ll probably in some ways be responsible for the execution of the game as far as PA announcer and things like that.” By Benjamin Smith