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Far West Classic Returns, Sort Of

Oregon St. will be playing in the Moda Center in Portland next December.
Oregon St. will be playing in the Moda Center in Portland next December.

For years, the Far West Classic was one of the premier off-campus NCAA basketball pre-season tournaments in the country. The 8 team event conducted between Christmas and New Years at the Memorial Coliseum that was co-hosted by Oregon and Oregon St. attracted top teams nationally, in an era before there were "exempt" tournaments that did not count fully against a team's allotment of games in a season. Washington would some times drop in as well.

With that rules addition, to make tournaments in Alaska and Hawaii primarily attractive, and subsequently to get teams from the east to tournaments in the west and south, and the expansion of the Pac-8 to 10 teams, and the longer conference schedule, scheduling became an issue, and so did the financial viability, both for teams having to reduce the number of home games they had and increase travel expenses, and for the tournament, which faced declining attendance and coverage as a result of diminished attractiveness of the teams involved.

The tournament was scaled back to a 4 team event for a while, but eventually went by the wayside.

Another casualty of the demise of the annual trip to Portland was diminished availability to the large number of OSU (and Oregon) alums and business partners in the Portland market, never mind reduced visibility to an ever growing pool of new customers.

Oregon made some forays with the Pape Classic, but that effort has gone by the boards as well.

Meanwhile, college basketball in Portland took a definite back seat, with neither Portland nor Portland St. garnering the attention they probably deserved either. Good success with the NCAA Tournament first round has shown there is an appeal for an improved college hoops presence in Portland, though.

Now, the Far West Classic is back, though, at least sort of.

Associate Athletic Director Mark Massari has announced that the Beavers will be back in Portland this coming winter, and it will be the beginning of an evolving initiative that will provide an annual, 2 day presence in Portland. Its an idea men's basketball coach Wayne Tinkle has also pushed, seeing recruiting and player development opportunities in addition to the marketing moves Massari would be primarily interested in.

On Friday December 18 and Saturday December 19, Oregon St. in partnership with the University of Portland, will play 4 games at the Moda Center. The Portland Trailblazers, the primary tenants of the building are also in the partnership, and will provide promotional assistance.

It won't be a true tournament, at least this year, as UC-Santa Barbara (Massari's former employer before joining Oregon St.) will play the Beavers on Friday and the Pilots on Saturday, but the other games will have Weber St. in for Friday only, to play Portland, and Tulsa arriving to take on Oregon St. on Saturday.

UPDATE: A May scheduling change has Cal-State Fullerton replacing UCSB.

Going forward, there are plans to partner in some seasons with Portland St., and also to explore including the Oregon St. women's basketball team.

Massari has said it will remain just a 2 day event, but its possible, especially on Saturday, that a 3rd game, possibly involving the women and either a high profile opponent or a local one with appeal might be added.

It's certainly an interesting initiative, especially given the tendency for copious numbers of unused seats for the non-conference games during the winter break when most students are not on campus, and the need to expand the reach and exposure for Oregon St. outside their decidedly small Corvallis sphere of influence.

And last year's game at Portland provided a competitive contest, and was one of the brighter spots for both the Beavers and Pilots preseasons.

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo,com