NCAA BK

Dan Gavitt begins as NCAA's new tourney chief

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP)

Dan Gavitt spent the last nine months preparing for his own private version of March madness - weather concerns, damaged buildings, blackouts, even terrorist threats.

He's ready for just about contingency over the next three weeks.

While college basketball fans tune in to the NCAA tournament, Gavitt will be working hard behind the scenes to avoid all the potholes, pitfalls and pressure that come on the road to the Final Four -- and not just for the 64 remaining teams that open second-round play Thursday or Friday.

''I'm excited, I'm anxious, I think both at the same time,'' Gavitt told The Associated Press as he prepares to run his first NCAA tourney. ''I was growing up around the game of college basketball literally my whole life, but I also feel like I have an awesome sense of responsibility to manage this event the way it's been managed the last 74 years.''

Gavitt has been a regular face in college basketball crowd for years.

He started attending Final Fours in the late 1970s, watched the tourney become one of the world's sporting biggest events while his father, Dave, was running the Big East Conference and eventually wound up as a Big East executive, too, before taking the NCAA job in June.

Now he has a longer title, NCAA executive vice president for men's basketball championships, a new boss and an entirely different perspective on the NCAA's marquee event. He took over from Greg Shaheen, the longtime head of the tourney who resigned his post last spring.

Instead of contemplating pairings and predictions or following schools from his conference, Gavitt will spend his time constantly on the go.

Last weekend, he was locked inside an Indianapolis hotel room with selection committee members. On Monday morning, he made the 2 1/2-hour drive from the NCAA's Indianapolis headquarters to Dayton, Ohio. Before he could even get unpacked, there was already a problem -- Liberty's flight into Dayton had been delayed and he started preparing one of his multitude of contingency plans.

''We would change the schedule if necessary, we haven't at this point because it looks like they'll be here in time for their practice and media availability,'' he said Monday. ''And if you adjust one practice time or media obligation it has a ripple effect on the other teams.''

Turns out, it was no big deal. Liberty made it in just fine and everything went off on time.

Most college basketball fans could care less about the logistics Gavitt must deal with -- presuming it doesn't affect tip times, games or their favorite teams.

But it isn't easy with a bracket coming out Sunday and eight teams needing to be in Dayton in less than 48 hours for the first four games.

Gavitt's job is to make sure things go smoothly everywhere, every time.

That's why he'll depart Dayton after Wednesday night's final first-round game and heading to Atlanta, where he will spend the rest of the weekend watching the remaining 48 games from the TBS studios with John Adams, the NCAA men's basketball national officiating coordinator, and Mike Bobinski, the selection committee chairman.

Should something unforeseen should happen, the NCAA officials can confer immediately, make a decision and contact site committee organizers with a single set of instructions.

Gavitt has gone to great lengths to prepare for every conceivable scenario.

''We kind of learn from everyone's experiences and do things that are presented to us,'' he said, citing the Super Bowl power failure as an example. ''Safety and security are always the big things for everyone that plays, coaches and watches the game, and then No. 2, I want every single game to be contested without controversy. I want to let the student-athletes on the court decide the game.''

He still wants to put on a good show, though, from Selection Sunday right through to the closing video montage following the title game.

Fortunately, Gavitt has some experience to rely upon.

He spent the past seven years running the Big East men's tourney at one of basketball's meccas, Madison Square Garden, and before that served as the athletic director at Bryant University. He even ran his own sports marketing firm.

With so many locales, so many people involved at each site and the spotlight of four networks broadcasting every game live, Gavitt is uncharted territory. But he can't to see it all kick into high gear Thursday.

''That's where the anxiety comes in a little bit, you feel a responsibility to make sure the experience is something they'll remember the rest of their lives,'' Gavitt said. ''It is a logistical jigsaw puzzle but I'm fortunate enough to have a great staff to pull that off.''

Tagged: Dayton

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