Orange Watch: After NCAA black eye, Syracuse to shine hosting NCAA regional

dome

The Carrier Dome hosts NCAA Basketball Tournament play for a seventh time this weekend

Item: Let’s see….SU-Virginia lacrosse, check. SU-Virginia basketball, check. Monster Jam truck competition, check. ‘Cuse-Hopkins lacrosse, check. Billy Joel concert, check. SU-Duke lacrosse, check. Several other collegiate lacrosse games, check. The NCAA arrives to take over the building this week for the East Regional, check. Oh, and the chancellor’s been looking to connect. He has a favor he needs to ask of you, a loyal 33 year employee.

Think you have had a busy month of March?

The aforementioned list is only part of the schedule Carrier Dome managing director and interim athletic director Pete Sala has crossed off with a week to go before the calendar hits April, and yes, the man is forced at times to take much deserved and needed naps in his office, overseeing a total staff of over 400 in a business that operates 24 hours a day, amidst supervising all those cleanups and transitions from full field, to basketball court, to dirt floor, to hockey rink, to concerts and even softball, that are achieved on time and seamlessly.

» Related: Tim Welsh: Syracuse head basketball coach Jim Boeheim a ‘fighter’

There’s a big reason why the NCAA enjoys hosting tournament events in the Dome (this year’s regional is the seventh time the basketball tournament’s been held in the Dome’s 36 year history, or basically once every five years), besides the fact that it’s one of the few basketball tournament venues that sits on a college campus as opposed to a downtown or suburban location, it’s because Sala and his staff have a reputation among those in the sports/entertainment venue and facilities management industry of being smooth operators.

This Friday night’s games featuring familiar-to-the-building Louisville and N.C. State (7:37 p.m. ET / TBS), followed by outliers Michigan State and Oklahoma will not only generate an abundant amount of TV visuals and promotion of the city, campus and building itself, but will put more of a positive spin on the university since the massive range of local, regional, and national traditional/social media opinions rained down individually on Kent Syverud, Jim Boeheim, and Daryl Gross, and generally on the school and athletic department’s manners of operation following the release of the NCAA penalties on March 6.

Leading the charge as literally the event’s host, along with simultaniously being the new face (for now, at least) of Syracuse athletics (exactly like his longtime mentor former AD Jake Crouthamel who’s ‘other’ job was also overseeing the facility), is Sala, who despite his increased hectic schedule since his announced appointment on March 18, has responded to every piece of congratulatory correspondence that has come his way (“I love this place,” Sala emailed Orange Watch after we passed on congrats).

As the search begins to get underway for a full time athletic director, it’s not inconceivable that the traditional structure of the department undergoes a tweak or two as the goals of continued strong fundraising, getting the football program consistently competitive in the ACC and in an annual bowl game hunt, and making sure the procedures put in place in the wake of the NCAA crackdown achieve the goal of department compliance, the school will take time out to put its best foot forward in executing the event that sends one of the participants on to Indianapolis and the Final Four.

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Brad Bierman

About Brad Bierman

Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.
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