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MEC tourney may never leave Wheeling

WHEELING – It was a slam dunk no-brainer.

Mountain East Conference Commissioner Reid Amos announced Tuesday that the conference basketball tournament will remain in Wheeling in 2021, exercising its third-year option.

It was not a tough decision.

The Friendly City knocked it out of the park last year, hosting the event for the initial time, setting attendance records at gorgeous WesBanco Arena. Total attendance nearly reached 14,000 fans – easily an MEC Tournament record.

Attendance records — along with strong sponsorship support — made for a very nice payday for the conference. Charleston — the previous home site — yielded red ink. WesBanco opened its doors to the top three crowds in MEC tourney history.

The MEC success mirrors that of the Super Six. The state football championships have blossomed since leaving Charleston and taking root in Wheeling more than two decades ago.

I have said before that the Super Six will never leave Wheeling as teams are treated royally. Moreover, the local organizing committee has turned the weekend into more than football, highlighting academics and social activities as well.

With that said, I predict the MEC basketball Tournament will call WesBanco Arena home for a long time, if not permanently. No one does hospitality better than the Ohio Valley.

Year one is always the toughest to get something of such magnitude off the ground. Wheeling did it seamlessly, establishing a solid foundation for even greater success.

“It?s a great product, it?s great basketball and we?re anticipating a great event in 2020,” Amos said.

The commissioner is spot on on all three.

Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott indicated that last year’s MEC event had more than a $2 million impact on the area. With local entities benefitting so much, it will only galvanize increased support from Ohio Valley businesses.

Elliott said, “It?s a great reflection on how well last year?s tournament went that they?re willing to exercise that third year option. I think last year was a great marriage of two great organizations, the MEC and the city of Wheeling. I think we’re good fits for each other.”

I agree. I also believe it is a marriage that will continue to grow stronger and stronger the next two years, leading to a long and fruitful marriage, just like the Super Six.

DONNELLY TO SPEAK

THE MARTINS Ferry Chamber of Commerce is holding a Fall Chamber Banquet on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at the Martins Ferry Recreation Center at 6 p.m.

Featured speaker will be Rich Donnelly. The Steubenville native has coached at the Major League level for several teams, and owns a World Series ring while assisting Jim Leyland with the Florida Marlins. He also authored a best-selling book – “The Chicken Runs at Midnight.”

In conjunction with the banquet, the Martins Ferry Chamber is selling copies of that book at a reduced price. For more information on the banquet or the book, call the chamber office at 740-633-2565.

Donnelly’s latest coaching gig is bench coach for the New York Mets’ Triple-A affiliate farm team in Syracuse. He coached the Pittsburgh Pirates with Leyland from 1986-96.

BUBBA’S BITS

KANSAS CITY won Super Bowl 54 because San Francisco gave it away. You cannot blow a 10-point lead with seven minutes to play when you have the best defense in the league, combined with an effective ground game. Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahones, barring injury, is on track to be the GOAT.

THE ST. THOMAS University men’s basketball team is now 15-5 on the season. Wheeling Park grad D.P. Harris is the first-year coach of the Miami Gardens, Fl.-based institution. Harris scripted a Hall of Fame coaching career at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., before heading to the Sunshine State.

THE LOS Angeles Dodgers made themselves prohibitive favorites to win the National League pennant after acquiring Mookie Betts and David Price from Boston for minor leaguers.

THE CAL (Pa.) University men’s basketball team continues to enjoy resurgence in Dan Sancomb’s second-year at the helm. The former Wheeling Jesuit head coach has his Vulcans sitting at 15-7.

MICHIGAN STATE is in the market for a head football coach after Mark Dantonio’s ill-timed resignation, a day before national signing day and a month after receiving a $4.3 million longevity bonus. The Zanesville native is also a target in an NCAA probe. Current Cincinnati head coach and former Ohio State assistant Luke Fickell would be an ideal replacement.

JIM CRUTCHFIELD has Nova Southeastern on a roll. The former West Liberty coaching great has guided his Sharks to seven straight wins, improving to 17-2 overall and 11-2 in the Sunshine State Conference. Nova is a half-game out of the SSC lead.

THE ANNUAL MAC/BMAC WVU Coaches Caravan is scheduled for Monday, May 11 at River City Restaurant in Wheeling. More information will be coming in the future.

WEST LIBERTY’S football fortunes drastically improved this past week when former WVU quarterback Jack Allison announced his plans to become a Hilltopper. He will be eligible immediately.

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