July 1, 2003
Houston, Texas - The University of Houston, Reliant Park and the Greater Houston Convention and Visitor's Bureau announced that college basketball will return to the site where games in domed stadiums began when Houston hosts the NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four at Reliant Stadium April 2-4, 2011. Reliant Stadium will also host a NCAA Division I Regional Tournament in 2010.
"The NCAA Division I Men's Final Four is one of the premier collegiate sporting events in the country," said UH Athletics Director Dave Maggard. "The University of Houston has a rich tradition in men's basketball, so it means a lot to be a part of this great event, and we look forward to working with the NCAA on preparing for 2011."
Houston's tradition of playing in domed stadiums began when Head Coach Guy V. Lewis approached former UH Athletics Director Harry Fouke with an innovative idea of the Cougars playing top-ranked UCLA in the Astrodome. More than 53,000 fans watched the two teams play on January 20, 1968, and it also marked the first nationally-televised college basketball game.
In 1971, UH was the host institution for the Final Four at the Astrodome. That started a trend for NCAA Championships to be played in domed stadiums. Now, the Final Four will return to the city of Houston for the first time in 2011.
The Cougars played in one of the first games held at Reliant Stadium when Houston met Baylor in the Space City Hoops Classic on November 30, 2002. The tournament also included Texas, Texas A&M, LSU and Seton Hall.
"We are thrilled with the NCAA's decision," said Shea Guinn, President and General Manager of SMG-Reliant Park. "It has been our mission from the very beginning to bring major sporting and entertainment events to Reliant Stadium and the Final Four was at the top of our list."
"We also have begun some preliminary discussions with the NCAA about hosting a Regional in 2007 and 2008," Guinn added.
Greater Houston Convention and Visitor's Bureau President and CEO Gerard J. "Jordy" Tollett called the NCAA's decision a significant milestone for the city of Houston.
"In addition to the Super Bowl, Major League Baseball All Star Game and Tennis Masters Cup...the Final Four in 2011 will establish Houston as one of the nation's best destinations for major sporting events," Tollett said. "These events have substantial economic impact as well. We anticipate that the Final Four will bring $100 million to our city."
The bid cities were evaluated on a number of criteria, from venues and city support, to transportation and its hotel packages.