University at Buffalo athletics director Mark Alnutt was among those racing to Alumni Arena after ESPN mistakenly broadcast the NCAA women’s basketball tournament bracket hours before it was intended.
“So I’m hustling over here from campus, and as I walked in my office, that’s when they flashed that we were playing Rutgers,” Alnutt said. “And then the first thing I noticed was 4:30 Eastern Time on Friday.”
The UB men and women are scheduled to play simultaneously.
The No. 10-seeded UB (23-9) women will play No. 7 Rutgers (22-9) at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn., the same time as the sixth-seeded UB men play either No. 11-seeded Arizona State or St. John's in Tulsa, Okla., in the first round of the men's tournament. The game is scheduled to begin at approximately 4 p.m.
“And I’m just thinking, ‘OK, obviously you’d like to have some separation. You’d like to have maybe alternating days,’ ” Alnutt said. “But I also look at it like this – first of all, with it being (at Connecticut), for our fanbase, very similar to Albany, we can get a lot of people to travel to Storrs from the New York area. And then the second thing is watch parties are going to be happening everywhere, you know, like at a place like Santora’s. We’ll be able to have alternating TVs and just make it a big UB basketball watch party. Not just men and women specific.”
Alnutt said the school will need to work out the details for simultaneous radio broadcasts of each game.
He was disappointed that the leak sent the women scrambling and ruined the suspense.
“It just didn’t seem like a selection show,” Alnutt said. “I think a big piece of this is the reaction. There’s the live look-in, and that’s missing, and there’s a lot of coaches, student athletes, staff, ADs that are just scratching their heads, like, 'Hey, how could this happen?' ”
But he chose to look on the bright side.
UB has two teams in the NCAA Tournament, even if they must play at the same time. That’s not such a bad problem to have.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to be in the spotlight,” Alnutt said, “and for our brand to continue to grow. And the national exposure that this university and Western New York get, it’s a good thing.”