No. 17, 2004 – When the men tip-off on Nov. 22 for Paradise Jam's championship game, fans in an estimated 60 million homes could be watching. That's just a little more than the usual audience that pours into the UVI Sports and Fitness Center every year to watch NCAA Division I basketball squads compete for the Paradise Jam title. This is the first year the tournament has been picked up by Fox Sports College Network and Fox Sports Net for live, national broadcast. National sportscaster Larry Conley will be doing the color, while Mark Brown from Fox will call play by play action.
"It means a lot for UVI and the Virgin Islands," said Peter Sauer, UVI athletic director. "UVI has never had exposure like this in the states. It's great for the school to let people know about us and also great for recruitment."
On Nov. 22, the men's championship and consolation games will be carried live on Fox College Sports Network, and regionally in the Midwest on Fox Sports Net. The first game will start at 6:30 p.m. Atlantic Standard Time, and the second will start at 9 p.m.
The final day of the women's tournament also picked up additional live coverage. On Nov. 27, the live broadcast between Rutgers University and the University of Kentucky has been picked up by Fox Sports Net in the New York and New Jersey regions. That game will be telecast live right after the New York Knicks vs. Toronto Raptors game.
Sauer said his department has been trying to negotiate national media coverage for a few years, but couldn't get over the hurdle of finding the money. This year an anonymous source outside the university and the government donated the funds, and enabled UVI to enter into a contract with Fox Sports College Network. Because of the National Hockey League strike, sister station Fox Sports Net had program space to fill, and started picking up options to air the Paradise Jam tournament regionally.
"The college basketball audience is a good audience for V.I. tourism. It's a highly educated crowd with disposable income," said Sauer. "That's important. If you're going to do all this you might as well reach the audience that has some money to spend if they decide to take a vacation."
The deal between the university and Fox Sports promises to give both UVI and the Virgin Islands the best possible coverage. Crews will shoot a lot of footage of the islands to use as lead-ins to the games.
"We'll put the school in the best light," said Sauer. "A lot of people in the states don't know we have two Rhodes Scholars and the best marine biology department in the country. We're biased, but we also say we have the prettiest campus in the world."
Logistically, planning for this tournament has been different from in past years. Power had to be upgraded in the arena, crews had to be lined up and a satellite truck, recently purchased by Channel 12, will be put to use.
If you think this national coverage means you can relax on your sofa at home in the V.I. to watch the tournament, however, think again. If you have the Fox Sports College channel on your dial, the Paradise Jam games will be blacked out. Organizers want to see as many people as possible pack the bleachers for the games. So far, according to Sauer, advanced ticket sales have been great. Another benefit: the television exposure has already helped the tournament draw better teams. In fact, the women's roster is full for the next few years.
Tickets cost $10 for V.I. residents with an ID, $40 for non-V.I. residents, and $5 for students ages 5 to 17. UVI students can purchase $5 tickets at the UVI Bookstore on the St. Thomas campus with a student ID. Tickets are also on sale at Modern Music in Havensight, Parrot Fish on Back Street, The Rack at Tutu Park Mall and Nisky Pharmacy.
The schedule for the men is as follows:
– Friday, Nov. 19, Austin Peay plays Saint Louis at 6:30 p.m., Winthrop plays Arkansas at 9 p.m.
– Saturday, Nov. 20, Eastern Michigan plays Austin Peay at 6:30 p.m., Troy State University plays Winthrop at 9 p.m.
– Sunday, Nov. 21, Saint Louis takes on Eastern Michigan at 6:30 p.m., Arkansas plays Troy State University at 9 p.m.
Championship rounds will begin at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22.
For the women: Thursday, Nov. 25, Rutgers plays South Dakota State 4:30 p.m., and Kentucky plays Oregon State at 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 26, Oregon State plays Rutgers at 2 p.m., South Dakota State plays Kentucky at 4:30 p.m., Nebraska plays North Carolina State at 7 p.m., and Hampton plays Louisville at 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 27, Oregon State plays South Dakota State at 2 p.m. and Rutgers takes on Kentucky at 4:30 p.m.
All times are Atlantic Standard Time. For everything you've ever wanted to know about Paradise Jam, log onto its homepage at www.paradisejam.com.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.