New tourney looking to move to top

The man who runs the resort that stages the Battle 4 Atlantis is

ready to make his tournament the best of the preseason college


”This is the richest preseason tournament. Period,” said

George Markantonis, President and Managing Director of the Atlantis

megaresort. ”Most tournaments don’t pay the schools anything.

Nothing. Nada. All they do is give them a hotel room and their 22

seats of airfare. We knew there was no way we would be able to

convince teams that it’s just better in the Bahamas, even if we got

that NCAA exemption. There was no way we could just convert a

ballroom into a basketball court and say: Trust us. So what you

really need is a bit more firepower.”

Markantonis went all out.

He is correct about the other eight-team preseason tournaments,

the most prominent of which is the EA Sports Maui Invitational, and

what they pay participating schools. Airfare and hotel for a

traveling party is quite an enticement, but Markantonis has added

quite a bit to that.

He said the resort dishes out almost $2 million in prize money.

All eight teams get $150,000 just for taking the court.

”The two winners get $200,000 each, on top of the $150,000.

That goes to (athletic) scholarships. Most tournaments are zero,

and along comes Battle4Atlantis, and the winners get $350,000,” he


Tournament director Lea Miller said the payout continues so that

the third- and fourth-place teams get another $50,000 each and the

fifth- and sixth-place teams get another $25,000. All the money

goes to the school’s athletic scholarship funds.

This year’s final saw Duke beat Louisville and the field

included two other ranked teams – Missouri and Memphis.

The schools sign a confidentiality agreement about how much they

receive from the Battle 4 Atlantis and other tournaments.

”We had to go meet with these coaches and teams. We had to win

the vote. It was no slam dunk as a nation we’d get exemption

status. You don’t get that, nobody gets here,” Markantonis said.

”And not every team wants to come where it’s the top eight seeds

in the nation. You have to get some sleepers and Cinderella


Miller spent a year working to get the exempt status for the

Bahamas from the NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors. In January

2011 the exemption – meaning the teams count the entire tournament

as one game against their scheduled 27 – was given making the

Bahamas, Canada and Mexico the countries with exempt status.

Participation is limited to one team per conference each year and

require teams to wait four years before returning.

Once the exempt status was given, Miller started on the fields.

Harvard won the inaugural tournament in 2011 and then came this

year’s group which looked a lot like an NCAA tournament


The games are played in a ballroom turned basketball court. To

meet NCAA requirements for ceiling limit, chandeliers had to be

removed, something you don’t hear at most events.

One thing that makes Atlantis different as a site is the cost.

Sodas are $4 and burgers run $6. And there is a casino which sits

in the middle of the resort and has to be passed through by almost

all guests.

The 4,000-room resort was sold out for the weekend, Markantonis

said. NCAA-brand T-shirts sold out in the first five hours and the

demand was so heavy that the resort took orders and paid for the

shipping to have them sent to the United States.

”We have another monster (field) to finalize for next year,”

Markantonis said.

On the night of the Duke-Louisville championship game seven of

the eight teams in the 2013 field were announced.

Kansas, Villanova, Wake Forest, Tennessee, Southern California,

UTEP and Xavier were revealed with the eighth team to be announced

at a later date.

Miller says she has the fields for the next four tournaments

practically set, mostly waiting for the conference realignment to


Steve Skinner, the Chief Executive Officer of KemperLesnik,

which owns the Maui Invitational, said the company doesn’t talk

about financial aspects of tournament.

”We rely on 30 years of our history with great fields and great

competition,” he said. ”We have been very fortunate with marquis


Illinois beat Butler in this year’s Maui Invitational final and

next year’s field will feature Syracuse, Gonzaga, Dayton, Arkansas,

Baylor, California, Minnesota and Division II Chaminade, the host


”We have a long-term deal with ESPN into the future,” Skinner

said. ”We have always focused on delivering a great basketball