After two years at the Palestra, the Ivy League men’s and women’s basketball tournaments are moving to New Haven, Conn.
While the tournament has been a success in University City, complaints about Penn’s home court advantage helped spur the location change. Now, Yale will benefit, hosting the two-day event in its Lee Amphitheater. The tournament will also no longer take place during Penn's spring break, because the NCAA's Selection Sunday has been moved a week later than in the past for the upcoming season.
Although the results of the move remain to be seen, many college basketball analysts and fans disagree with the move, citing the Palestra's rich history and a potential lack of space at Yale.
The location change comes with a drastic reduction in the size of the arena: the Palestra seats almost 9,000 while the Lee Amphitheater only holds 2,800, according to Yale Athletics’ website. While the Palestra was not quite filled to capacity during last year's tournament, the listed attendance for the men’s championship game was 5,564, nearly double the amount that Yale’s gym holds.
“If you want to keep it on [an Ivy] campus, there’s no other place than the Palestra,’’ Penn women's coach Mike McLaughlin told the Philadelphia Inquirer in March.
The move comes less than two months after the Ivy League announced a new media deal with ESPN that increases the profile of the tournaments. In light of that deal, some have criticized the move as decreasing exposure to the tournaments despite the new television contract.
“We look forward to bringing the Ivy League Basketball Tournaments to another historic Ivy League venue in 2019,” Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris wrote in the league's statement. “Ivy Madness unites the high-quality level of basketball in our League with the excitement of March. We anticipate another electrifying atmosphere in New Haven.”
The tournaments will feature the same format as the previous two editions, and will be held on March 16 and 17, during Yale's spring break.
"Yale is a great site, and another historic gym that the Ivy League is blessed to have," Penn rising senior center Max Rothschild said. "It should be an exciting environment there, and I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Before the season, Yale men's coach James Jones was one of the most vocal to argue for a neutral site venue, citing the home-court advantage that hosting the tournament gives.
"I think a neutral site somewhere in New York would be the best place; geographically it's in the middle, there's a ton of alumni in the area, so I'd be in favor of something like St. John's where it's equal for everybody," he told The DP in November 2017. "When you get to play on your home court after you finish in the top four, that's gonna be an advantage for you."
One argument for Yale is that New Haven is right near that geographic middle, being north of Penn, Princeton, and Columbia but south of the other four Ivies.
Despite this, it remains unclear if Yale will be a long-term location for the tournament, if it will rotate among all eight Ivies, or if a neutral site will be adopted soon. According to the League’s statement, the site for the 2020 tournaments has not been determined, as the conference “continues to explore various options”.