Detroit — The ball is tipped — in four years.
The NCAA announced Tuesday that college basketball’s biggest showcase, the Final Four, will be played at Ford Field in April 2027. It’s the city’s first time hosting the national semifinals and championship game since 2009.
Word came mid-day Tuesday, as members of the Detroit Sports Commission, which took the lead on the bidding process, gathered around a laptop, refreshing several times a minute.
“People think we get the news first,” said Dave Beachnau, executive director of the DSC. “We found out when it was posted for the general public. We were certainly on pins and needles.
“That’s the nature of the beast.”
The bidding process for another Final Four has been several years in the making, with a final pitch delivered by Detroit’s team to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee on Oct. 31. Among those involved in the final pitch were Beachnau; Kevin Pauga, Michigan State associate athletic director; Brad Michaels, executive director of the Quick Lane Bowl and Events for the Lions; Hakim Berry, chief operating officer for the city of Detroit; and Terry Rhadigan, vice president of corporate giving for General Motors.
Taped messages were also delivered by Detroit mayor Mike Duggan, Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo and legendary broadcaster Mike Tirico.
The NCAA on Tuesday announced Final Four sites from 2027-30, with Detroit going first, Las Vegas in 2028, Indianapolis in 2029 and North Texas (Arlington) in 2030.
The Detroit Final Four will feature the semifinals on April 3 and the final on April 5, in 2027.
“Detroit is increasingly being recognized as one of America’s great sports towns and one of the best places in the country to visit,” Duggan said in a statement. “Today’s decision by the NCAA to host its 2027 Final Four tournament at Ford Field is further proof of that and great news for our city’s restaurants, shops and hotels.
The winning bid was a joint effort by the Detroit Sports Commission, Visit Detroit, Michigan State, the City of Detroit, Ford Field and the Lions. Michigan State will serve as the host school for the 2027 Final Four.
This news was expected to come eventually, but until the official word pops up on the internet, after constant refreshing, you just never know. Detroit has had high hopes for marquee events before, and missed out.
It’s missing out less and less lately, however. Earlier this year, the NFL announced the 2024 NFL Draft would be held in Detroit. The United States Golf Association is bringing eight marquee tournaments to Oakland Hills in Bloomfield Township, including two US Opens and two women’s US Opens. Little Caesars Arena also will be hosting a 2024 NCAA Tournament regional in basketball, often a telltale sign that a Final Four is coming.
“We’ve just got an incredible amount of momentum in our city and region right now,” Beachnau said in a Tuesday afternoon conversation with The News. “It was a big day, for sure.”
Detroit also hosted the 2022 NCAA Wrestling Championship at Little Caesars Arena, and will host the 2023 USA Boxing National Qualifier at Huntington Place. LCA was supposed to host the 2020 Frozen Four, hockey’s Final Four, but the event was canceled amid the pandemic and Detroit has not been awarded a replacement.
But the Final Four, well, that’s a monster — and not one you’re afraid of seeing under the bed, but one you want to shout from the city skyline’s rooftops.
In 2009, as Detroit’s auto industry was on the brink, tens of thousands flooded downtown Detroit for the Final Four, where Michigan State made a surprise run to the championship game, losing to North Carolina. That showcase had an estimated economic impact of more than $70 million, and Detroit appears poised to fare even better in 2027, given the city’s resurgence — not just the auto industry, but from bankruptcy less than a decade ago — and the infrastructure in place. There are more than 100 more restaurants in Detroit than there were in 2009, and many more hotel rooms, with more on the way.
Tens of thousands of basketball fans will come to Detroit in April 2027, and nearly 2,000 basketball coaches, too. The Final Four is the traditional site for the annual basketball coaches’ convention.
“We are proud to have the NCAA Men’s Final Four returning to Detroit, but particularly for us to host it once again at Ford Field,” said Rod Wood, Lions president and CEO. “The teamwork between the Detroit Lions, the Detroit Sports Commission, Michigan State University and the City of Detroit is an exemplary illustration of a civic and private collaboration that will be felt for years to come in our community.”
Added Claude Molinari, president and CEO of Visit Detroit: “The secret is out; southeast Michigan is the place to host world-class events, and the Final Four is another exciting win for Detroit that will be a powerful economic driver for our region. “
Ford Field’s basketball roots date to 2003, the year after the building opened, when it hosted “Basketbowl,” a game between Michigan State and Kentucky that featured the court at football’s 50-yard line. The attendance of 78,129 was the largest ever to watch a college basketball game, later beaten by the 100,000-plus that attended the 2010 NBA All-Star Game at Cowboys Stadium.
“Basketbowl” attendance remains a record for a college game.
College basketball came back to Ford Field in 2009, when North Carolina played Michigan State before 25,267 fans in what was a preview of the teams’ meeting in the championship game in Detroit four months later.
“Michigan State University is proud to serve as the host institution,” Michigan State athletics director Alan Haller said. “The Final Four creates memories that last a lifetime.”
And not just for the schools and players.
It’s also the case for the city and its residents, who saw the Major League Baseball All-Star Game come to Detroit in 2005, and the NFL’s Super Bowl in 2006.
Those were the marquee events that symbolized the city’s early millennium rebirth, before the heck happened.
“I see kind of a mirror image of that now,” Beachnau said. “A lot of similarities.
“I can really see the momentum.”