SANDESTIN — SEC basketball is coming back to Tampa Bay.
Commissioner Mike Slive announced Tuesday during the SEC spring meetings that Tampa will be the host city for the 2022 SEC men's tournament. The tournament will be held in St. Louis in 2018.
Tampa's selection is even more significant because the league has decided on Nashville as its permanent site, where the tournament will be held in 10 of the next 12 years.
"We could not be more excited about getting the opportunity to host the SEC again," said Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. "We really enjoyed the opportunity in 2009 and we'll do everything we can to make sure that it's a tremendous success in 2022."
When Tampa hosted the tournament in 2009, the nation was in a recession and several of the league's premier programs — including Florida — were struggling. Mississippi State and Tennessee played for the title, and the cumulative effect took a toll on the tournament.
On opening day, attendance averaged 10,000 below the 21,655-seat capacity. Among the 12 SEC schools, only Kentucky had sold out its allotment of 1,100 tickets the week leading into the tournament, resulting in several schools, including Mississippi State, Mississippi and Auburn, cutting their ticket prices.
Slive said that didn't negatively affect Tampa's bid.
"Tampa is a great scene for us in terms of the facility and in terms of the environment," Slive said. "We think that that was an anomaly and we can get the kind of support that we want."
Higgins said the organizing committee will work to improve the 2022 tournament based on lessons learned from 2009.
"I think anytime you get a chance to experience something, you can naturally take a lot of edits and recalibrate to make sure it's more successful," Higgins said.
"Naturally, I think there was room for improvement from 2009, but I would also say that the way that we hold ourselves accountable as to whether an event is a success is whether or not it comes back. So the fact that the SEC has decided to come back points toward the confidence that the league has in the relationship and we couldn't be more honored to be able to work together with them here in the future now."
hargreaves on watch list: Sophomore CB Vernon Hargreaves, a Wharton alum, is one of 42 nominees for the 2014 Lott IMPACT Trophy. The award is presented to the college football defensive player who has the biggest IMPACT (Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity) on his team. Hargreaves started 10 games as a freshman with 38 tackles, 11 pass breakups and three interceptions.
sec honors: Florida's Kevin O'Sullivan is the SEC baseball coach of the year and RHP Logan Shore was named freshman of the year in a vote of the league's 14 head coaches. O'Sullivan earned the award for the second time in his Florida tenure, having also won in 2010. Gators junior C Taylor Gushue and Shore were chosen first-team All-SEC, sophomore OF Harrison Bader was named second-team All-SEC and 1B Peter Alonso, Shore and 3B John Sternagel collected All-Freshman recognition.
Florida will begin play in the NCAA tournament against College of Charleston on Friday at 7 p.m. at McKethan Stadium.
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]