State representative pushing to bring college basketball tip-off game to Springfield
SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - One local lawmaker is calling on a familiar face in the Bay State to bring the start of college basketball season back to where the sport began.
“We are still the birthplace of basketball. We’ve got the Basketball Hall of Fame here. There’s no better place to kick off, or tip off, the season than right here in the city of Springfield,” said State Rep. Angelo Puppolo.
For over 25 years, the college basketball season officially tipped off where the sport first began: Springfield, Massachusetts. On Monday, Puppolo penned a letter to former Massachusetts Governor and current NCAA President Charlie Baker with a full-court press to bring the event home.
“We’ve never before had an NCAA president from Massachusetts, never had a president that’s been connected as much to the city of Springfield,” Puppolo added.
The tip-off game ran in Springfield from 1979 until 2005, transformed into a tournament, and migrated to Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun where it’s been held since 2011. However, Puppolo pointed out that the Hoophall Classic, featuring the top high school talent in the state, and an annual tournament held each December at the MassMutual Center, including this upcoming edition featuring UMass, West Virginia and Final Four participant Florida Atlantic, as reason to feature a new event and grow the game.
“Not limiting it to men. I think that’s critically important. This was back in the 80′s, we’ve got some great women’s teams now,” Puppolo explained.
Puppolo said that bringing the game back would also be a huge boost for business, including hotels, restaurants, and attractions in western Massachusetts.
“Downtown was vibrant. You had a lot of economic spin-off. We have teams from all around the country coming in, fans and people coming in,” Puppolo noted.
We reached out to representatives from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In a statement to Western Mass News, president and CEO John Doleva said, in part: “The Basketball Hall of Fame supports any and all efforts to bring high quality basketball events to Springfield and will assist in any way we can. The hall of fame is, of course, already exclusively producing and funding a great doubleheader at the MassMutual Center annually.”
“It’s worth taking a shot. I don’t think it’s a layup, but I certainly think it’s a long three-pointer,” Puppolo said.
Western Mass News reached out to the NCAA for comment, but have not yet heard back.
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