UAA Athletic Director Keith Hackett is making the tournament a top priority
ANCHORAGE – University of Alaska Anchorage Athletic Director Keith Hackett wants to return the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout to prominence.
For years, it has been one of the country’s most recognizable Thanksgiving holiday college basketball tournaments.
“Going back to 1978, the Great Alaska Shootout is what people watched and the history and tradition of the Great Alaska Shootout is something people know about,” Hackett said.
Pleased with the quality of play, he said he feels as many as four of this year’s participants (Harvard topped Texas Christian 71-50) could play in the NCAA tournament in March.
But given 2013’s solid playing field, Hackett wants the Shootout to grow — and improve. The list of past winners is littered with the sport’s blue bloods: Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, UCLA, Arizona and Syracuse. College basketball royalty routinely had Thanksgiving dinner in Anchorage.
But holiday tournaments are now the norm and providing stiff competition. Attendance has dwindled in recent years. Hackett, who came on board in September, is making the tournament a top priority.
“We’re going to work awfully hard to enhance the field,” he said. “Try to get out there, make connections, develop relationships across the United States with some of those schools and talk to them about coming back to the Great Alaska Shootout.”
For more than thirty years, the tournament has been played at the Sullivan Arena. In 2014, the destination will be different as the new, 5,600-seat Alaska Airlines Center will open next fall.
“It’s going to provide some of that sizzle we need,” Hackett said.
He’s already warming the pan.
“It’s going to be a difference maker and really help the tournament move forward,” Hackett said.
He’ll be working the phones trying to get more teams from the Lower 48 to consider the 49th state once again.