NCAA Basketball: Final Four

Detailed view of discounted merchandise being sold at a store in the CNN Center after the NCAA men’s Final Four was canceled due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus.

Atlanta missed its anticipated opportunity to host the Final Four in men’s college basketball this year, but the city will get another shot.

It just may take awhile.

NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt told CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein this week that Atlanta will be considered as a Final Four host site “as soon as there’s an opening on the calendar.”

Unfortunately, the next opening on the Final Four schedule for men’s basketball is at the end of the 2026-27 season. The NCAA already has hosts lined up for 2021 (Indianapolis), 2022 (New Orleans), 2023 (Houston), 2024 (Phoenix), 2025 (San Antonio) and 2026 (Indianapolis).

Atlanta had built up momentum to college basketball’s marquee event, only to have the coronavirus outbreak end to the season in the middle of conference tournament play. The NCAA Tournament never got started.

The Division I semifinals were scheduled for April 4 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, followed by the April 6 national championship game. The NCAA men’s basketball championship games in Division II and III were scheduled in Atlanta as well, along with a number of companion events, including a free concert at Centennial Olympic Park featuring Taylor Swift, Halsey and Tayla Parx.

Atlanta must wait for another chance at all of that excitement because the contracts are locked up until 2027. The economic impact of the event on the city had been predicted to reach as high as $100 million.

“Atlanta has proven itself a terrific host over the years and plans for this year’s Final Four were going quite well,” the NCAA’s David Worlock told Forbes.com. “Among the many groups we feel terrible for due to the cancellation of the tournament, the Atlanta Host Basketball Committee, the great staff at the stadium and our hosts from Georgia Tech are chief among them. While we have commitments to other cities through 2026, I suspect Atlanta will be a strong contender to host a Final Four once we start a new bid cycle.”

Atlanta previously hosted the Final Four three times — 2002, 2007 and 2013 — at the now demolished Georgia Dome. That facility hosted early rounds of the NCAA tourney six times from 1996-2012. The Omni held the Final Four in 1977, as well as early-round games 10 other times.

College football also has made Atlanta a frequent destination for championship events, including last season’s College Football Playoff semifinals at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. The city also hosted a CFB semifinal game in 2016 and the national championship game after the 2017 season.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl are set to host the CFB Playoff semifinals again after the 2022 and 2025 seasons. The next opening to host the CFB Playoff title game is after the 2024 season.

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